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. Passengers line up for a bullet train at a platform in Tokyo Station.
    Transportation

    The Amazing Psychology of Japanese Train Stations

    The nation’s famed mastery of rail travel has been aided by some subtle behavioral tricks.

  2. Two women prepare food at a McDonald's restaurant.
    Equity

    We Can Create Better Jobs—by Fixing the Bad Ones

    More than 65 million Americans toil in insecure, low-paying jobs. Instead of hoping they will all find different, and better, jobs, we should upgrade the ones they already have.

  3. A rendering of Elon Musk's Chicago Express Loop, which would transport passengers from downtown to O'Hare in 12 minutes.
    Transportation

    The Craziest Thing About Elon Musk's 'Express Loop' Is the Price

    The $1 billion construction estimate is a fraction of what subterranean transit projects cost.

  4. Transportation

    Nothing Is ‘Sexier’ Than Building a Highway Over the Everglades

    Days before a key vote, Miami-Dade transit advocates are rallying against a proposed interstate expansion.

  5. Transportation

    Why Are Little Kids in Japan So Independent?

    In Japan, small children take the subway and run errands alone, no parent in sight. The reason why has more to do with social trust than self-reliance.