On a chilly Sunday evening in Carrboro, David Moncada turned on the stove and prepared to open for business.
Moncada and his wife Patricia Fidhel are the owners of Na’wara de Arepa, a new food truck off of Merritt Mill Road. Na’wara opened in December 2018 and serves arepas, a traditional Venezuelan dish made out of maize. In Venezuelan culture, arepas are typically sliced in the middle and filled with shredded meat, cheese or vegetables.
Moncada and Fidhel, who were both attorneys in Venezuela, opened the food truck to fill what they saw as a gap in the Chapel Hill restaurant scene.
“I would like for people to know a piece of Venezuela,” Moncada said. “This is something traditional.”
The couple’s son, Leonardo, 14, and daughter, Alexandra, 12, typically work at the food truck on weekends. They both attend Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools. Fidhel said owning a family business is unique because everyone is working together toward a common goal.
The truck’s name is a tribute to a colloquial term commonly heard in Venezuela to express astonishment. Na’wara appeals to local Venezuelans who look for a taste of home, such as Chapel Hill resident Jessica Fenjves.
“I left Caracas when I was 18,” Fenjves said while referring to her hometown, Venezuela’s capital city. She has lived in the U.S. for 11 years.
Her story is similar to that of the four million Venezuelans who have fled their country since 1999, when socialist leader Hugo Chavez took the presidential office.
Venezuela, formerly one of the richest nations per capita due to its oil reserves, now faces shortages of food, medicine and other basic needs. The International Monetary Fund predicted an inflation rate of 10 million percent for 2019, which comes after two decades of economic mismanagement.
On Jan. 23, Juan Guaidó, the president of Venezuela's legislative body, swore himself in as president of the country citing the constitution, after Chavez loyalist Nicolás Maduro's re-election in May was deemed fraudulent by many Venezuelans and the international community.
Fidhel said she feels grateful other countries are taking a stand to bring democracy back to Venezuela. After waves of protests in 2014 and 2017 were violently shut down by the government, leaving dozens of demonstrators dead, Fidhel said the hopes for a regime change were drained.
"(Now) people feel that they have this new leader who doesn't have any stains (on his record)," she said.
Moncada immigrated to the United States two years ago and originally lived in Orlando, Fla., before moving to Chapel Hill in July 2018. Fidhel and Moncada said that coming to the United States and starting a new business hasn't been easy. Most of their family remains in Venezuela, and they feel helpless witnessing the crisis from afar.
“We came here basically by ourselves,” Moncada said.
While Moncada hopes to reach out to Fenjves and other Venezuelans in the Triangle, as well as UNC students and community members, he regularly takes pictures with newcomers.
“People come from everywhere,” he said, scrolling through the pictures on his phone.
The family is grateful to share a piece of its culture with the Chapel Hill community.
“We are very thankful for Chapel Hill for letting us have our business here and for being so receptive,” Fidhel said. “Hopefully, there will be more people that we know every day.”
Na’wara is open Tuesdays through Sundays from 6 p.m. until midnight at 102 S. Merritt Mill Rd. in Carrboro. The truck has an Instagram, and it's also available for delivery and catering for special events.
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