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Let’s grab a bite: Papalaya

You probably know this week’s campus celebrity after stopping by right after a night at “la calle”, or even grabbed a bite between late night studying sessions. No matter for what reason, the Papalaya food truck and its crew surely know how to please UPRM students’ palate. Read more to know about the wide-minded students behind the Papalaya phenomenon!

The crew:

·         Celso R. Figueroa Díaz, owner

·           Israel “Tito” Baez

·          Christian “Bacon” Pérez

*All agricultural mechanics and technology students.

What motivated you to open this business?

 The idea came up about two years ago, due to my economic necessity as head of a family. My family has run different business, so I opted for opening my own and take on this adventure by myself.

 Where does the name papalaya come from?

 The name… Well a lot of people think it comes from “papa”, “papaya” or something along that line. But it was really thanks to my daughter; when she was one and a half-years-old and she was beginning to speak (so she was already bossing me around). One day while we were playing, she said: “Papá allá,” and I understood “papalaya”. Hours later, when thinking of names for the business I mentioned it and she repeated it. That’s how it got stuck, and I knew it could capture the client’s attention.

 What is your specialty?

 Papalaya specializes in bringing the young “colegial” a fresh and different alternative at those late nights snacking moments.

 Do you have regular clients?

 Yes, 80 percent of our regular clients are UPRM students. We have faithful clients daily as to weekly.

  Is it strange for you guys that students wave and greet you on-campus like you were celebrities?  

C.F. Well, after a year one gets used to bumping into customers on-campus and they asking for sandwiches and nachos at all hours. On top of it all, thanks to my clients I have lost my name and now they call me “Papayo” everywhere they see me.

Tito: It’s not weird anymore, the funniest thing is clients recognizing me and I only recognize them by their order’s name tags in Papalaya.

 Having such a tight schedule and being students how have you managed to balance school and work?

C F: As the owner and father it has been practically impossible having a balance. I’m currently cursing my last semester and due to the hit Papalaya has had, I’ve had some trouble assisting to classes. It has gotten a bit out of control the wanted balance of the business and the university.

Tito: On my part, I’ve tried to maintain that balance, but it’s no easy task. It’s not easy being a full-time-student and having a working schedule like Papalaya’s.

 What are some of your plans for the future?

 As future plans, I hope to graduate this May and continue on with my plans on expanding the business. It has been a complete success and it has not been worked to its maximum level. There are a lot of good things coming for Papalaya and for its clients.


Mónica Ocasio is a senior majoring in comparative literature, with a minor in Italian at the University of Puerto Rico- Mayagüez. Born, raised and living in Puerto Rico, Mónica has always enjoyed reading a good book, spending time with her family and baking.
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