The breakfast burrito that is now served in McDonald’s stores around the world was created by Cuban immigrants. This month, the savory breakfast celebrates its 30th anniversary.
Nelly Quijano came to America in the early 1960s as part of an exodus of 14,000 unaccompanied children sent into exile to the United States by their parents after Fidel Castro The socialist “revolution” has taken control of the island.
She was only 15 when she arrived by plane with a suitcase containing some of her belongings and no money. Today, after decades of hard work, she is a legend among restaurant franchise owners having operated over 20 McDonald’s in the Houston area with her late husband. Dominique quijano.
The couple invented the McDonald’s breakfast burrito, now served in places around the world, to satisfy the palates of the growing Latin American population. This month, the burrito celebrates its 30th anniversary, which coincides perfectly with this year’s Hispanic Heritage Month celebration.
When a New Jersey textile company started by Nelly and her husband burned down completely, Dominic wanted to rebuild it, but she didn’t see their future in an industry already in decline amid rising imports.
It was then that Quijano focused on the opportunity to own a McDonald’s restaurant, moving to Houston to open their first franchise in the heavily Hispanic East End on Harrisburg Boulevard. This is where they started experimenting with ingredients to create the burrito.
“We Cubans don’t have burritos in our kitchen” she said to Houston Chronicle, but they realized that in Texas the offer should be included in the breakfast menu. Thus, the McDonald’s Mexican plate was born in their first restaurant kitchen in 1985, after six months of testing and recommendations from local customers.
The company expanded the offering nationwide and later worldwide in 1989, where it has been available ever since.
But Nelly’s accomplishments extend far beyond the world of fast food, help establish the McDonald’s Hispanic American Commitment to Education Resources Foundation – known by its initials, HACER – which has awarded millions of dollars to underprivileged Hispanic students since its inception in 1985.
“For me, it’s about making the dreams we all have when we come to America come true through the power of education,” Quijano told the Houston Chronicle in 2018. “I wanted to help other kids get the education I wanted so badly when I arrived… but without paying anything for it.”