Honduran heritage in Charleston

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The incessant sound of chopping cuts through the quiet morning air. The aromas of tangy, spicy and sweet all mix together to form an array of savory, desirable sensations. This wonderment is coming from the most unlikely source: a small, weathered trailer situated in the abyss of grass and dirt. Its operator; a 17 year old, Honduran-born high school senior named Elias Lazo.

Coming to the same soccer field every Sunday since he was seven, Lazo has seen his role change as he grows older. During his early years he came to the fields from early morning till dusk to run around and play soccer with his friends. By about age 11, his role began to change when his mother asked him to assist her with their business of selling Honduran food out of the trailer to hungry customers looking for refreshments after a hard fought soccer game.

“As I started getting older, I guess you could say I started evolving, and getting more experienced. At about 14, I started coming by myself,” Lazo said.

His work does not just begin and end on Sunday. It begins as early as Thursday, as he must prepare and help cook all the food.

“Friday when I get home from school, I help out. We have to get everything, buy everything and still have to dice the meat and make all the sauces,” Lazo said.

Enterprising high school senior Elias Lazo runs his own business. (Photo by Michael Wiser)
Enterprising high school senior Elias Lazo runs his own business. (Photo by Michael Wiser)

Unlike most teenagers who might harbor bitterness against their parents for requiring them to give up their weekends, Lazo sees it rather as an opportunity to give back.

“I feel good because I help out my parents. I have everything I want, I have a phone, a car, and I don’t mind helping out.”

Lazo did not always have everything he wanted.

Leaving his birth country before the age of three, Lazo and his family came to the United States illegally, but gained legal residency as his mother was a victim of domestic violence. “We came up here to look for jobs, as Honduras is not a very rich country,” Lazo said.

Moving to a new country at a very young age initially caused issues since Lazo did not speak English very well until elementary school. While he successfully gained fluency in his new language, it seemed that he was beginning to forget his birth tongue. “Eventually, I barely knew how to say anything in Spanish. I would be in the middle of a sentence and have to run upstairs to ask my sisters, ‘How do you say this?’ And then run back downstairs to tell my parents.”

The solution? Lazo’s father made him spend his summers reading a Spanish bible, learning how to read and write properly in his birth-language.

“At the time, I hated it. Every summer, when I got out of school, he would make me do that, but now I appreciate it because if it wasn’t for that, I wouldn’t be fluent today,” Lazo stated. Now, Lazo has his sights set on further schooling, as he hopes to follow in his sisters’ footsteps and make his way into college. Currently working on applications, Lazo is looking at the College of Charleston as one of his first options, hoping to take advantage of the College’s fantastic science program in order to become an athletic trainer.

Juggling all his commitments is beyond difficult, but Lazo is not just your ordinary teenager. Having run a business since 14, while dealing with school, sports, a social life and all of life’s unexpected bumps, is something truly exemplary. It will not be long before Lazo will be running his own successful business, using all of the skills learned from his Sundays at the Bayview Soccer Complex.

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