Preserving La Estrella Bakery History

Alberto Fuentes, a proud custodian of family legacy, kneels beside the memorabilia exhibit at the McAllen Heritage Center, where La Estrella Bakery's cherished history resides. Photo by Roberto Hugo González
Alberto Fuentes, a proud custodian of family legacy, kneels beside the memorabilia exhibit at the McAllen Heritage Center, where La Estrella Bakery’s cherished history resides. Photo by Roberto Hugo González

Texas Border Business

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By Roberto Hugo González

In a world that’s constantly evolving and changing, there’s a crucial need to remember and celebrate the past. The story of Alberto Fuentes and his family’s La Estrella Bakery in McAllen, Texas, serves as an example to the significance of our shared history and the memories it holds. 

Through this conversation, we preview into the life of a family that played a part in shaping their community and, in doing so, left an indelible mark in this city.

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The Fuentes family’s bakery, La Estrella Bakery, was established by Alberto’s grandfather, Jose Fuentes, in 1926. For nearly seven decades, it served as a beloved fixture in the community, providing not only delicious treats but also a gathering place for friends and neighbors. However, like many businesses, it eventually closed its doors to the public around 1992.

What makes this story particularly noteworthy is not just the bakery’s existence, but the fact that it was a family enterprise. Alberto Fuentes, along with his cousins and other family members, worked together to help their grandfather and father run the bakery. They all had their roles, from shaping the bread estrellas (stars) to crafting sugar cookies, French bread, pan dulce, and more—all done by hand.

Alberto emphasizes that the bakery was more than just a business; it was a shared family experience, a tradition passed down through generations. This sentiment encapsulates the heart of the matter—the importance of preserving our family histories and traditions.

While La Estrella Bakery may no longer be in operation, the memories it created endure at the McAllen Heritage Center, a Museum of History and Culture. Alberto and his family have a treasure of photographs and memorabilia from the bakery’s heyday, reminding them of the good times and hard work that went into the family business. These artifacts not only serve as a personal connection to their heritage but also as a piece of McAllen’s history.

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One key aspect of preserving history is sharing it with the community. Alberto mentions that his brother, Alfredo Fuentes Jr., carried on the tradition in a small way by making sugar cookies and other baked goods. The Fuentes family even had the opportunity to present their bakery’s story at the McAllen Heritage Center. This engagement with the community helps ensure that the legacy of La Estrella Bakery lives on.

Alberto’s sentiments reflect the broader importance of local history and heritage preservation. As communities change and grow, it’s essential to remember where we came from. Local businesses, like La Estrella Bakery, are more than just commercial establishments; they are a part of the fabric of a community’s identity. They tell the story of the people who lived and worked there, leaving an indelible mark in the city and its residents.

Alberto Fuentes and his family’s story remind us of the value of preserving our past. The importance of remembering our roots and the impact that family businesses can have on a community. The memories and traditions passed down through generations enrich our lives and help create a sense of belonging. The McAllen Heritage Center’s efforts to showcase these histories serve as an invitation for all to come and experience the richness of McAllen’s past. After all, our history is not just a collection of facts and dates; it’s a living narrative that shapes who we are today and who we will become tomorrow.

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