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I’m worried about El Porvenir Tortilla Factory (1782 National Avenue, Barrio Logan, 619-233-4038), home of the Most Awesome Burritos in the County.

It has been open and closed -- but mostly closed -- for the past three years. At first they put up a little notice: “Due to the Health Department having too much work, the inspection for us is going to be delayed until June 11, 2009. So please don’t worry. We will be back in business soon.”

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El Porvenir Tortilla Factory

You had to believe them. After all, they had been in business making tortillas and selling carnitas or carne asada burritos right here since 1918. Nineteen eighteen! That’s nearly 100 years.

El Porvenir (“The Future”) is like Cuatro Milpas but less invaded by us gringos. What I’ve always loved is the bunch of ladies in the back who kneaded out the dough, trundled the tortilla machines, chop-chop-chopped the meat, and toiled away in the gloom of what looked like a Victorian workhouse.

Except everybody was happy, including the customers. And as long as you weren’t in a rush, you got your just rewards, the (my opinion) best, wickedest burritos in San Diego.

But over the past year, I haven’t seen the ladies climb aboard the 901 bus as they always did, around four in the afternoon. And El Porvenir’s doors have still been closed. So yesterday I called in on José, across the road in Patty’s Fruitland, the place where you'd go to get your burrito antidote.

“The old lady, Juanita, died,” José says, “a month ago. And they say her family has to fix ventilation and oven issues before they can reopen.”

I cross over to El Porvenir. José’s right. Black ribbons...

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...and another notice.

“In Loving Memory of Juanita A. Castañeda, 03/08/42 – 10/18/11. R. I. P.”

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Sad news. If Juanita was the driving force, we’ll just have to hope the kids carry on where she left off and start The Future up again. And that they remember the good ol’ saw: “If it works, don’t fix it.”

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