Archives Center, National Museum of American History

Guide to the El Chico Restaurants Collection

Collection ID:
El Chico Restaurants
1908 - 1990
Collection is in
. Some materials in
Physical Description:
0.75 Cubic feet
The materials relate to the creation and operation of El Chico Corporation.

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
The collection consists of material related to the El Chico Corporation and to the two families involved in its creation and management. The business materials consist primarily of financial reports and studies, annual reports, articles and clippings and investment information. Advertising, menus, labels and packaging are also included among these materials. In addition, there are photographs and articles relating to the Cuellar and Caballero families.

The collection is arranged into three series.
Series 1, El Chico Corporation Business Records, 1950-1990; undated
Series 2, Cuellar Family Papers, 1920s-2006
Series 3, Caballero Family Papers, 1908-1989

Biographical / Historical
Biographical / Historical
Adelina Cuellar was born in Mexico in 1871. She and her husband Macario migrated to Texas in 1892 and were married in Laredo, eventually becoming sharecroppers in Kaufman, Texas. In 1926, Mrs. Cuellar began making tamales to sell at the Kaufman fair, assisted by her twelve children. This venture became so successful that two of her sons opened a café in Kaufman with Mama Cuellar as the cook. The café failed during the Depression, as did several others opened by the Cuellar family in Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana.
In 1940, Adelina's sons Macario and Gilbert opened a restaurant, El Charro, in Dallas featuring their mother's recipes. They hired their friend Jose Valdez Caballero to manage the restaurant; he had grown up in his family's restaurant in Temple, Texas. El Charro became profitable, and the family began to expand its operations into Houston and Fort Worth. The restaurant chain became El Chico, and most of the family moved to Dallas to work in the business.
The Cuellar brothers diversified their business into frozen and canned foods, franchising, and numerous other enterprises that became the El Chico Corporation. Jose Caballero continued to work for the company as an executive until his retirement. He is credited with the development of popular recipes and with the invention of the hard shell taco. Adelina Cuellar lived to the age of 98 and saw her tamale stand grow into a Tex-Mex empire. Today, there are one hundred El Chico restaurants in the United States and world-wide.

Anne Jones
Immediate Source of Acquisition
The collection was donated by Fifi Caballero Benson, John A. Cuellar, and Carmen Summers in 2011 and 2012.
Processing Information
Processed by Anne Jones, 2012.

Using the Collection
Conditions Governing Access
Collection is open for research.
Preferred Citation
El Chico Resturants Collection, 1908-1990, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.
Conditions Governing Use
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.

Related Materials
Materials in the Archives Center
Frito Company Records, circa 1892-2009 (AC1263)
Coon Chicken Inn Collection, circa 1913-1960s (AC1153)
Warshaw Collection of Business Americana, 1724-1965 (AC0060)
Virginia Mericle Menu Collection, 1960-1990 (AC1212)
Byron Fogel Placemat Collection, circa 1930-1981 (AC0419)

Archives Center, National Museum of American History
P.O. Box 37012
Suite 1100, MRC 601
Washington, D.C. 20013-7012