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Josefina Howard Honored with NYC Council Proclamation & Newly Commissioned Portrait

Chef. Entrepreneur. Our Founder. 

Josefina Howard, the chef and entrepreneur who began Rosa Mexicano in 1984, was posthumously honored on Monday, March 4th for her culinary and cultural innovations with a special event at Rosa Mexicano’s flagship restaurant on First Avenue and 58th Street in Manhattan. The proclamation was issued by New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson's office and is part of the observance of March as Women’s History Month.

The March 4th ceremony is the inaugural event of Rosa Mexicano’s 35th anniversary, a year-long commemoration. The reception included the unveiling of a specially commissioned portrait of Josefina Howard. This portrait, created by Nestor Madalengoitia, will be displayed permanently in all 11 Rosa Mexicano locations nationwide. 

The full text of the New York City Proclamation is included below. Learn more about Josefina Howard in this short video.

In celebration of Women’s History Month, New York City Council is proud to posthumously honor Josefina Howard for her extraordinary achievements and her enduring contributions; and

WHEREAS: Women’s History Month provides a special opportunity to reflect upon the countless women who have shaped the society and the world we know today. The late Ms. Howard was such an individual. A trailblazing chef, businesswoman, entrepreneur, she spearheaded a culinary revolution that introduced Mexican fine dining to mainstream America, reaffirmed Mexican cuisine as a source of cultural pride, and inspired countless women to pursue their highest aspirations; and

WHEREAS: Ms. Howard was born in Cuba, grew up in Spain and lived significant portions of her life in France, Italy, Mexico and the United States. She launched her professional career as interior designer in Mexico City, where she had a successful business for more than 20 years. Although she traveled the world, her love for the people, culture and culinary traditions of Mexican continued to deepen. For Ms. Howard, the pure, unique and robust flavors of Mexican food represented the last frontier of the palate and a cuisine full of surprises and possibilities; and

WHEREAS: In 1984, Ms. Howard opened Rosa Mexicano to share her love of authentic Mexican cuisine with adventurous New Yorkers. Its debut  was groundbreaking in numerous ways. Until Rosa Mexicano opened its doors on the elegant Upper East Side, Mexican cuisine had been widely misunderstood in America. Many of its signature ingredients—including avocado, huitlacoche, and pomegranate—were rarely seen in other restaurants. It was also rare for a woman to attempt such a bold enterprise in the male-dominated culinary industry of that era. Ms. Howard faced sexism and racial discrimination but rose above them. Many people warned her that the business would fail yet she persisted, a true testament to her vision, passion and strength of character; and

WHEREAS: Ms. Howard always took great pride in spreading the message of how authentic Mexican cuisine was prepared, and what made it unique. At Rosa Mexicano and in her community involvement, she demystified Mexican cuisine for millions. Rosa Mexicano was the first restaurant in the United States to serve guacamole tableside, a tradition upheld today and one now adopted by restaurants across the nation. From the start, its regionally inspired Mexican cuisine quickly garnered loyal patrons and great acclaim from the press. New York Magazine applauded Ms. Howard for introducing New Yorkers to a “hitherto unfamiliar, elevated version of Mexican cuisine.” The New York Post called her “the grande dame of Mex with moxie”; and

WHEREAS: Thanks to Ms. Howard unwavering dedication, Mexican cuisine is now considered mainstream and among the most popular dining options in America, and her legacy continues to grow today. Thirty-five years since her beloved Upper East Side restaurant opened its doors, Rosa Mexicano now has four locations in New York City and seven others across the country; and

WHEREAS: Ms. Howard truly distinguished herself as an immigrant, a woman, an entrepreneur and an incredible champion of Mexican culture and cuisine, and she will always be worthy the esteem of her fellow New Yorkers; now, therefore

BE IT KNOWN: That the New York City Council honors the incredible life and indelible legacy of Josefina Howard for her extraordinary achievements and her enduring contributions to New York City and the nation.

Signed this 4th day of March in the year Twenty Nineteen.




For the Entire Council