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Bound by love, living by traditions

Salvador and Margarita Avila, founders of Avila's El Ranchito, have been married 65 years.

May 06, 2011|By Lauren Williams

In 1966, the first El Ranchito opened its doors in Huntington Park, and the running of the restaurant involved the whole family. The boys helped mamá chop vegetables in the kitchen, the girls bused tables after school.

In 1972, the family opened a Long Beach location, and shortly afterward moved into Orange County, where they've been for more than 40 years.

The Avilas have 14 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. The El Ranchito chain has 11 locations, each run by a family member.

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'She assures the way'

Now Margarita and Salvador live on Spyglass Hill, with most relatives within a five-minute drive. Salvador makes weekly visits to the farmers market, where he's well-known among vendors, and buys Margarita orchids. Few counters and tables around the home are without one.

Mondays at the Avila home are chicken soup day, and there's an "open door policy" where family members can wander in at anytime for meals or just to visit. The door to the family home is always open.

Although they have been away from Mexico for 53 years, daily life for the Avilas is steeped in tradition.

Each day, a large meal is served at 9 a.m. and then again at 3 p.m., following a Mexican routine. Christmas cooking with the tías (aunts), who are scattered throughout Southern California, is an annual occurrence, according to Maria Elena.

Margarita is known for her deep love and has a reputation among the family as a sas¿n — someone with that special touch for making wonderful dishes. Salvador is known for his strength, work ethic and determination, Maria Elena said.

The two have had many close calls where family members worried that they wouldn't see 65 years together.

When asked their secret to a happy marriage, Salvador replied without a moment's hesitation: "La mujer!" The woman. "She assures the way," he said.

Margarita's answer was a bit different: "Patience. A lot of work. It's not easy."

She said the other key to their success was "a lot of affection toward the other person."

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