There’s no denying Juan Cervantes loves his mother. Founder of local East Side Maker Mama C’s Salsa, Juan is a proud second-generation Mexican-American who exemplifies the innovative spirit of an independent business owner pursuing the American Dream. Named after his mother Carmen Cervantes, Mama C’s Salsa is an homage to her entrepreneurial legacy and the dedicated work ethic she imbued in her beloved children.
A first-generation immigrant to the U.S. from the Jalisco region of Mexico, Carmen Cervantes strove to provide her seven children with access to education and job prospects. As a young child, Juan witnessed firsthand the selfless devotion his mother put into making ends meet. Carmen handcrafted and sold doilies, Mexican bread, and mole sauce to provide for her family while also juggling tasks such as ironing and folding clothes for money. During his childhood, Carmen taught Juan how to make authentic, homemade Mexican salsa using fresh, flavorful ingredients during the harvest season. This early, hands-on connection to food is one of many factors that inspired Juan to start Mama C’s Salsa.
State Farm insurance agent by day, small-batch salsa maker by night, Juan has built Mama C’s Salsa from the ground up. While working as an insurance agent in New Jersey during the 1980s, he made homemade batches of salsa for friends and coworkers. They were so impressed with its full-bodied taste that they urged him to make it available for sale to others. After a brief stint out East and a few years living in Mexico, Juan returned to Minnesota where he became State Farm of Minnesota’s first Latino insurance agent. This independent role taught him the ropes of maintaining a business, further setting the stage toward food-business ownership.
Kitchen on the Bluff, an East Side commercial kitchen that incubates small minority- and immigrant-owned businesses, Mama C’s salsa is truly a family-run labor of love. Juan’s sisters, daughters, and their significant others all pitch in, hand-roasting jalapenos over an open flame. Peeled, sliced, and added to diced tomatoes with freshly squeezed lime juice, garlic, and salt, the resulting salsa is packed full of flavor. No preservatives or additives are used, and most ingredients are locally sourced. Mama C’s Salsa currently makes four varieties, including mild, medium, hot, and extra hot, with plans for salsa verde in the works. It’s a great flavor enhancer to your favorite foods, like eggs, burritos, pizza, pasta, ribs, chicken wings, and more. Juan recommends adding it to Mexican, Italian, and Indian foods to excite your palate. All four varieties are available for sale at Mississippi Market. Grab some next time you’re here — it’s the one with Mama Cervantes on the jar.