Doña Lala's Biography
Euarda (Lala) Banda was born near San Luis Potosi, Mexico on October 13, 1910. She was the sixth of eight; she had two brothers and five sisters. Lala came to the United States with her parents and lived on the Johnson Ranch in Webb County where she attended school; at the age of twelve she moved with her family to the oil boom town of Mirando City, Texas. Lala started working at a young age; she gained a reputation as a hard worker.
Lala married Domingo Rodriguez in 1931. Domingo was known for his abilities as a truck driver. Lala and Domingo had two children, a son, Rodolfo, and a daughter, Mary Ana. After only four and a half years of marriage, Lala was left a widow with an eight-month-old baby and another young child. The need to support her children and herself put Lala back in the work force.
Lala worked for several families in Mirando including the Herbie Charleses, the Everett Suladies, the Herbert F. Danmiers, the Sam Evans, the Gus A. Beckers and the George Bucks. During those years she learned to cook many kinds of foods to suite the taste of different people.
After working for others for many years, Lala decided to use her experience as a cook and open her own business with the help of her brother Fructosa (Tio) Banda; Lala opened her cafe in a small four-room house on the main street in Mirando City on December 31, 1953... so began Lala's Cafe.
The walls were soon bulging with Mexican-food lovers. As the popularity of the cafe grew, it was not uncommon to find the little eating spot encircled with cars, trucks, and more cars parked on the side streets. People came from miles around to enjoy the hand-made corn tortillas and other fine foods from Lala's kitchen. One of the things that made the food so different from other Mexican-food restaurants was the fact that each plate of food was made-to-order with personal touch of Lala herself.
The growing demand from an adoring public helped Lala to build a new cafe across the street, catty-cornered from the original location. The new building was opened in 1964 to growing crowds, including car loads of airmen and their families from the Laredo Air Force Base. Lala's sponsored the LAFB Bowling Team and served as an unofficial recruiting station until the base was closed.
During the sixties and seventies when you went to Lala's, especially on Friday or Saturday nights, you knew you would probably have to wait for a table and, without a doubt, you have to wait for your handmade order of Mexican food. Families from different communities would meet and visit while they waited; others brought playing cards or other games to pass the time.
Lala was known for her love of people; she made sure everyone around her had plenty to eat. Lala loved her church, too. The Brothers of the Franciscan Fathers made Lala's their "home away from home."
Lala passed away after a short illness in the spring of 1973. She left her daughter, Mary Ana, her daughter-in-law, Lupe, and her grandchildren a legacy of making people happy via her art form of cooking with loving care.
Biography written by Dr. Michael Black from his book, Lala's Cafe, The Food and the Legend in 2000