Just like mom use to make

6 Aug 2002 | Cpl. Paula M. Fitzgerald

Marines train like they fight, and after a long, strenuous day in the field, they need replenishment.

Señora Juana Mentoyha Gossen, owner of the Pache Hostess House and a native here, provided that nourishment for 14 Camp Lejeune Marines and one sailor during the riverine phase of UNITAS 43-02.

"Having Juanita cook for us really felt like I was eating at my grandma's house," said 1st Lt. Juan Orozco, commanding officer of Data Platoon, Communications Company, Headquarters Battalion, 2nd Marine Division.

She began her business, named for her granddaughter, after inheriting nearly $50,000 from her parents.

The hotel offers six rooms, but because of the remote location of the village, business is rarely booming. 

"Usually, we get few visitors here, but every two or three years we have a (soccer) tournament and the soccer players rent the rooms," Juanita said.

But the group from Camp Lejeune soon changed that.

From July 18-27, Juanita and her family woke up at the crack of dawn to begin cooking the day's meals for the Marines and sailor. She, her adopted children, 9-year-old Marcos and 3-year-old Rocio, her maid, Rosalvo, and a family friend, Esther, prepared the food and provided the table service.

"Juanita really went above what I was expecting. The meals were excellent, and they really made you feel like you were home even though we were thousands of miles away," Orozco, of Laredo, Texas, commented.

Not only were the meal arrangements and cultural experiences beneficial, so too was the business they brought to Juanita's hostess house.

According to Juanita, the amount she received for providing the services should be able to last her family for the next four to six months.

"The grocery store is nearly 330 kilometers from Puerto Rosario, so it's a long, expensive journey to get meat and other food," explained Juanita. "But it's a great honor for me to cook for the U.S. Marines because they are so disciplined and courteous."