Humberto (Beto) Mendoza was born in San Juan Ixhuatepec, Mexico. He came to Athens in 1999 to work with his brother as a mechanic. He is a coordinator of the Athens Immigrant Rights Coalition, founder of Dignidad Inmigrante en Athens, co-creator of the LatinXFest, works at the Athens Farmers Market on Wednesdays at Creature Comforts, and is a musician. He plays with his brother in the band Incatepec, and has a new solo CD “Undocorridos” out now. He lives on the northside of town, with his brother Noe.
What led you to become an activist?
In Mexico I used art, poetry and music to resist and to preserve my culture, or what I think is my culture, in a sense to create my own identity and to find out more about myself. When I got here, I chose almost a continuation of that. I started playing music in the schools with my brother, South American/Latino music, in order to show the kids that there is more than what they have seen in schools. just to point out the indigenous people that still exist in the USA and Latino Americans. And, then it transformed from that and with the mega marches in 2006 [for immigrants rights] we helped organize a march in Athens. From there, I got more involved in the migrant movement and immigrant rights and issues.
What is your favorite restaurant in Athens, and what do you love to have there?
There are many restaurants in Athens that I like! Let’s start with Polleria Pablo, which is a restaurant close to my house. It is a Peruvian restaurant. He has a pretty good ceviche, but his lomo saltado and cinco de carne are the best. He is a pretty good chef. I like the Last Resort Grill is one of my faves. It is weird because I like the salad over there. The chicken tortilla salad is great. Sometimes, I get the polenta. I like the polenta plate with the veggie plate that they have. Of course, The National. There is a small restaurant, a friend of mine cooks for friends on the weekends, it is called Mifflin’s Family on the East side. It is amazing, it is pretty good. The guy is a chef.
If you could travel anywhere in the world right now, where would it be and why?
There are many places I want to see. Right now, Oaxaca, Mexico. I am homesick and I want to go there, eat the food, see the culture, and the music. But, out of Mexico I really want to go to any of the islands, Caribbean or any island.
What is your favorite movie, or what is the first movie you remember seeing in a movie theatre?
I didn’t see it in a movie theatre, it was Metropolie. Metropolie I carry with me a long time. That one and the Seven Samurais by Akira Kurosawa. I think those movies mark my life.
What advice do you give to young people just starting out on their life?
So, I will say enjoy their life, but also look into discipline that will help a lot later. Having discipline in their life helps a lot.
If you could see any band or show come to town, what would it be and where would you want to see it?
Silvio Rodriguez and it would be in the center plaza here, free for everyone.
What is your favorite season in Athens?
Fall, because I love the colors. I can’t help but just drive in the car and look at it all.
What is your favorite thing to do in Athens?
Walking on The Greenway, next to the river.
What is something interesting that most people don’t know about you?
My friends probably don’t know that I like fancy restaurants!
What three words or phrases come to mind when you think of the word “home”?
Mexico, Athens and warmth.