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With Cinco de Mayo just around “la esquina,” one Marco Island woman wanted to give props to a family of Mexican immigrants who have done a lot to help the people residing in their adopted country.

Ismail and Diana Perez, proprietors of Margarita’s in the Marco Town Center, work full-time (and then some) running their Mexican restaurant. But they are cognizant of their fortune to be owners of a thriving business, and stepped forward to give of their time, their talents – and their food – in the days after Hurricane Irma.

Island resident Colleen Mescall contacted the Eagle to help get out the word on the Perez’s good deeds, including son Edgar as well as Ismail and Diana.

“After Hurricane Irma, the Perez family donated a huge lunch to the people of Goodland,” Mescall wrote, “followed by another on Isles of Capri, and finally to the people of Everglades City. They both prepared and delivered all the food.”

Nancy Anderson, who organized the Isles of Capri “block party” last September, couldn’t say enough about their appreciation of the food delivery.

“We hoped they would let us pick up some prepared stuff, but Diana said no, they would bring full platters, all fresh. Ismail is so passionate about the food he cooks,” remembered Anderson. “Some of us hadn’t had a hot meal for a week” with power out in the storm’s aftermath.

Mescall was especially impressed by Edgar Perez, 22, a pre-law student at FGCU, who made a very personal sacrifice.

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“I met Edgar Perez at the YMCA when he was 16. He was a really shy kid with the most beautiful dark curly hair – ringlets to be specific,” she said. “A few days ago, Edgar walked into the Y and all his curls were gone. He checked with a charity and grew his a little longer so he could donate it. He had that hair since he was 12 years old!”

Edgar donated his ringlets to Locks of Love, a public non-profit organization that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children in the United States and Canada under age 21 suffering from long-term medical hair loss from any diagnosis. He seemed embarrassed by any attempt to make a big deal out of his gift, saying it “just seemed like the right thing” to do.

Margarita’s also donated to the recent YMCA Giving Tree dinner, for students of Manatee, Parkside, and Everglades City students and their families. Mescall is an organizer of that event.

“They never asked for any recognition,” she said. “In this current political climate, I thought you might want to recognize that the Perezes are immigrants – hardworking, charitable, and have raised a son who is a great student and a kind and charitable kid.”

“We never asked for help from the government,” said Diana Perez. “We have two kids who are U.S. citizens.” Edgar’s sister Elizabeth also works at Margarita’s. “It’s a shame what’s happening with immigration law right now. We learned to love this country and our country.

“I feel so blessed. I can work and supply for my family. When the hurricane happened, your vision changed. When we left before the storm … you don’t know what you will find” on your return. “We wanted to give back to the community we have received so much from,” said Diana Perez.

Cinco de Mayo starts early at Margarita’s, with a mariachi band scheduled for 6-9 p.m., Friday, what you might call Cinco Eve. They will also have live music on the actual Cinco de Mayo evening.

Diana Lopez did want to clear up one misperception many Americans have about Cinco de Mayo, though. For those who have forgotten their junior high Spanish, Cinco de Mayo means “the fifth of May,” and many north-of-the-border folks assume that, like the Fourth of July, the day celebrates Mexican independence.

“Everyone thinks it’s Independence Day,” said Lopez. “But Mexican Independence Day is in September. Cinco de Mayo is actually the day of the Battle of Puebla,” where Mexican forces triumphed over a French army.

Cinco de Mayo or not, you can find authentic Mexican dishes at Margarita’s. They offer tacos, tamales, enchiladas, “famous” burritos, “sizzling” fajitas, rellenos and camarones (shrimp) as well as salads for lighter or veggie appetites.

The restaurant has a wide selection of tequilas, to make the signature cocktail that gives the restaurant its name. They range from the familiar Cuervo and Patrón to exotic super-premiums that go for $50 a shot. And if you’re going to sip a Margarita, where better to do so than the restaurant that’s named for them? If you order a jalapeño Margarita, just be prepared for some heat.

If you go

Margarita’s

1069 N. Collier Blvd. (Marco Town Center)

239-394-6555

www.margaritasontheisland.com

Open seven days

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