SAN ANTONIO — Afghan Village in San Antonio is more than a restaurant. The market has become a community space for Afghan newcomers.
Restaurant owner Essa Yousafzai is from Afghanistan. He moved to Texas for college in 2009. And recently opened the Afghan Village Restaurant and Market in San Antonio.
“Yes, everybody loves their country, but then they see the flag. They are just amazed,” Yousafzai said. “We try to be authentic as much as possible, and get anything the Afghan community over here needs.”
The store is a one-stop shop for authentic food and spices. However, Essa says the store has become a hub for Afghan newcomers.
“Someone would need for benefits, SNAP benefits,” Yousafzai said. “They don’t know how to apply. They don’t even know how to read or write. So I would fill out the paperwork.”
Essa says he spends about half his day helping others with their transition. Whether that means translating or assisting with job applications.
“We own a business, but at the same time we know what they are going through,” Yousafzai said. “There is nobody else to help them out.”
Nadia Mavrakis is the CEO of Culturingua. It works to cultivate, promote and preserve Middle Eastern, North African and South Asian (MENASA) cultural, linguistic and artistic heritage to invest in human, community and economic development. The nonprofit recently got a $150,000 to assist new Afghans as they get acclimated to life in America.
“We have seen over 4,000 refugees from Afghanistan come here since last Oct. 2021 following last summer’s political turmoil,” Mavrakis said.
Essa says for many Afghans, their family and friends are already in Texas. So it feels like home. They just want jobs, an education and a better life.
“The freedom that comes with the country,” Yousafzai said. “The land of immigrants. Where you can dream of anything and become anything you want.”