Maria Moreno never thought she would be where she is now when she
immigrated to the United States from Mexico in 1969, but her children have
been her inspiration throughout the journey.
Moreno, 57, is the owner of
Maria’s Mexican Tacos on Bowman Road. She started the business in 2000
after buying a trailer in Sacramento. She used the trailer to sell her
now-famous tacos on the side of Luther and Bowman roads for six months
before moving to her current location.
“My business was doing better and better and … people kept telling me I
needed a kitchen,” Moreno said.
Moreno grew up in Michoacan, Mexico with her parents, six brothers and
Moreno said life definitely wasn’t easy, and she used to tell her
mother she wanted to move to the United States so she could have a car.
“I think everybody comes to the United States for a better life, and
that is why I left my town so young,” she said. “People (were) poor, and
it (was) too hard for our parents to buy clothes … to raise a big family.
It was hard. I think all the time (I) had the ambition to come to the
When Moreno arrived in Oxnard from Michoacan, Mexico as a 16-year-old,
she was poor and didn’t have a high school degree. It was in Oxnard that
she met her husband, Ramon. Ramon Moreno was also from Michoacan. The
couple came to Auburn, where Ramon was working for Machado Orchards. They
got married in 1970, and Ramon started to work for Auburn Disposal.
They had three children, Ramon Jr., 37, Clara, 36, and Pancho, 34.
When Ramon was 33 he died suddenly while working. The cause of death
was unknown, Moreno said.
“When I lost my husband it was very hard, because we were a beautiful
couple,” Moreno said. “We were poor, but we were happy.”
For 27 years Maria Moreno worked at Machado Orchards and began taking
English lessons when she started interacting with customers.
“I was working for them and they opened the bakery in 1984,” Moreno
said. “That is when I started to work … with people. That is (when) I
started to learn.”
Moreno used CDs and took classes in Roseville to learn English.
“I don’t know perfect English, but at least I am able to talk with
people,” Moreno said. “I just went to school and learned what I learned.
You learn with your kids when they go to school, and sometimes your kids
Moreno said her ultimate goal when working at the orchard and opening
her business was not to make a lot of money but to provide as much as she
could for her children.
“I don’t think I care about money,” she said. “I care about people, I
care about my kids. Until I die I want to be like this.”
Seeing the Machados work inspired her toward starting her business,
“When you work with somebody in business you want to do what they do,”
she said. “When I was working in the pie shop, they let me make burritos
Manager Shawnie Machado said Maria’s legacy continues at the Orchard.
“We wish we had her back, she’s that great,” Machado said. “People
still ask for her now. Maria is liked by everyone. She sends people up
here. We send people down there. There is no better person than her in my
Ramon Moreno Jr. said times were tough growing up, but his mom always
managed to put money aside to give him and his siblings special treats.
“She told us it would be OK,” he said. “We didn’t have the best things.
We went shopping at second-hand stores. She did what she could. She was
devoted to us. She still saved enough to take us to Disneyland, take us on
Clara Moreno said her mother worked extra hard to save money for a
“I had a quinceañera, and my mom saved for that party for me to have,”
Clara Moreno said. “Even through rough times when things happened to her,
she always found a way to get it done.”
Maria Moreno not only has her children to be devoted to now, but four
grandchildren, Sicilia, 14, Mia, 5, Diego, 6, and Aidan, 3.
Maria Moreno said Sicilia helps her with the restaurant and pushes her
to keep going when she feels overwhelmed.
“That is my big reason to be here: my kids and now my grandkids,” Maria
Local customers are glad Maria Moreno struck out on her own.
Auburn resident Ed McCarthy, who said he goes to the restaurant once a
week, said the laid back atmosphere and Maria Moreno’s caring nature make
for a great dining experience.
“It’s relaxing,” McCarthy said. “We just sit back and talk, and it’s a
nice place to hang out. She always comes out and just chats with us for a
McCarthy said at other Mexican restaurants he usually gets a platter,
because he isn’t sure what to order, but that is not the case at Maria’s.
“It’s good Mexican food,” he said. “I come here and I get particular
things, because I like them.”
The restaurant can be overwhelming sometimes, but her customers make it
worthwhile, Maria Moreno said.
“I love to deal with people, because I love my customers,” she said.
Now Maria Moreno is involved in community events and caters for
weddings and parties. When she took some time off to visit Mexico, she
said her customers expressed concerns that her business was closing, and
this showed her how much the community cares for her.
“Everybody was worried,” she said. “You know why? Because they care
about (me). That’s beautiful.”