Butcher Gerardo 'Tolo' Martínez in a scene from "A Good Butcher."
Butcher Gerardo 'Tolo' Martínez in a scene from "A Good Butcher." Victoria Bouloubasis/Vittles Productions

This short documentary offers a glimpse into a butcher's store where whites, African Americans, and Hispanics are united by food.

About 18 years ago, butcher Cliff Collins of Carrboro, North Carolina, realized that his clientele was changing.

"They came in asking me about things I didn't know the names of," says the owner of Cliff's Meat Market. "I did not know enough Spanish to care about Hispanic clients."

That's how Gerardo 'Tolo' Martínez, a Mexican from Guanajuato, ended up coming to work at Cliff's. The two men are the protagonists of the bilingual documentary short, Un Buen Carnicero (A Good Butcher), by journalist and food writer Victoria Bouloubasis, who filmed their preparation for July 4.

"I like to use food as a medium," Bouloubasis told CityLab. "Food is a social equalizer and I use it so that people can relate to other subjects." And that is exactly what happens in a shocking way in this documentary, through the events of a busy day preparing food while addressing the diversity of southerners, the butcher's craft, immigration, and the American Dream.

Watch the full documentary, produced by Vittles Films with Southern Foodways Alliance, here:

The story tells how Tolo has picked up English accent that he himself describes as "very country," how he learned his trade, and how he responds to a new kind of diversity he found in North Carolina.

According to the Pew Research Center, the number of Hispanics in Orange County, where Cliff's is located, has grown dramatically from just 680 people in 1980 to 11,767 in 2014.

"This is where all southerners come to buy their meat and now, with the population change, you see other things: sausage, marinated meat 'al pastor,' limes, and tamarind," says Bouloubasis. "For many this is something unexpected in the south, but for me, I've grown up here, it's normal."

The film was recorded more than two years ago, but with everything that's happened in the United States over the last year, it still resonates strongly, even offering some hope for racial tolerance and integration.

"I think many times when we are presented with stories of undocumented people, we expect extraordinary things, but I have a different take, and that is that every human being deserves to be happy, to have a family, to have a dream," according to the director. "Tolo, although he contributes a lot to his community, lives a simple existence, and that should be enough."

This story originally appeared in Spanish on CityLab Latino.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Life

    Say Goodbye to Spain's Glorious Three-Hour Lunch Break

    Catalonia plans to shorten work hours—but don’t call it the end of the siesta.

  2. Environment

    Let's All Swim in the Once-Filthy Canals of Paris

    Unlike many cities, the French capital has made good on its promise to re-open urban waterways to bathers. How did they do it?  

  3. Uber drivers sit in their cars waiting for passengers.
    Equity

    What Uber Drivers Say About Uber

    Researchers conducted in-depth interviews and discovered a lot about the pitfalls of working in the rideshare business.

  4. Design

    What Facebook Can Learn From Company Towns

    As the technology firm plans to build a village in Silicon Valley, history suggests what can sustain a company town long after its founders are gone.

  5. Transportation

    Honolulu's Rapid Transit Crisis

    Traffic in Hawaii’s capital is terrible, but construction on a rail system may now cost as much as $13 billion while alleviating road congestion by as little as one percent.