“Such Is Life,” The Kindness Of Strangers, And The Wonderful Ethics Saga Of Moises Treves And Judy Anderson

Such is life

This is an old story, but I’ve never written about it, and I need to be reminded that there is good in the world.

In the mid 1970s, Moises Treves was a day cook at a small taco stand on the island of Cozumel, Mexico, By all accounts he made the best tacos in town, and  American tourist Judy Anderson, a school teacher who visited the island several times, was a special fan of them. On one visit in 1977, Judy, traveling alone as usual, invited him to accompany her to the Mayan pyramids in the Yucatan Peninsula. Moises happily agreed and served as her tour guide. They had  lunch, speaking as best they could to each other using Judy’s limited Spanish and Moises’ broken English.

During the meal, Judy asked Moises if he had any ambition to open his own restaurant. Ah, he said, that was his dream, but he despaired of it ever coming true. He just didn’t have the money, and couldn’t seem to save anything.  Judy responded,”Such is life!,” an expression that Moises had never heard. He asked Judy about it, and the saying stuck in his mind.

As the lovely day came to a close, the two friends said goodbye:  Moises was about to take  the ferry back to the Cozumel, and Judy was heading o the airport and then home to United States. Mysteriously,  Judy gave Moises a sealed envelope and told him not to open it until he was home.

When Moises opened the envelope, he found five $100 bills.  They were accompanied by a letter that said,

“Dear Moises. Go make ‘Such is Life’ happen. Love Judy.”

Inspired,  Moises used the money to open a small restaurant in Cozumel, which,  he named “Such is Life.” His unique style of authentic Mexican cooking made the new eatery an instant success, and in 1992, he moved “Such is Life”to Phoenix, where he and the restaurant achieved local fame.  He opened a second award-winning restaurant in Scottsdale, also named, “Such is Life.” His menus included the story about Judy and the envelope, but he was never able to track his benefactor down to let her know that her act of kindness had changed his life. She had never returned to the island since the day they had lunch together.

On a lark, Moises contacted the syndicated TV show “Unsolved Mysteries, and the show dramatized his fateful daye with Judy in its May 16, 1997 episode. Judy Anderson saw it, called the phone center and soon got in contact with Moises. They had an emotional  reunion at  “Such is Life,” hosted by the show. She had no idea what had become of Moises until she saw the broadcast.

Treves died in 2014, a beloved and legendary restaurateur hailed as a “Mexican regional cuisine pioneer,” whose dream, thanks to the impulsive gesture of a stranger, came true.

Such is life!


Pointer and Source: Unsolved Mysteries

14 thoughts on ““Such Is Life,” The Kindness Of Strangers, And The Wonderful Ethics Saga Of Moises Treves And Judy Anderson

  1. “Such is life” was the phrase uttered by Australian outlaw Ned Kelly, when asked on the gallows if he had any last words. After reading that as a teenager, the phrase became a part of my vernacular.

    Thank you for the story of grace, heart and equity.

    In light of the present atmosphere of rancor and ill will, it was cool water in a parched world.

  2. Knew the restaurant, even ate there once. Drove by all the time to and from work. Didn’t know the story or that the owner had died recently. Explains a great deal.

    Have to wonder how Moises was able to come to Arizona.

    • The strangest thing about his restaurant was that he opened a second one in the same building, one on each floor. Maybe this story explains the name of the second restaurant, which I could never figure out. It was called, “Este es la Vida.”

      • So taco stand guys were getting visas in the ’80s? We had a shortage of taco guys? Hmmm. I’m guessing the mid-’80s amnesty.

        • That’s not what I gathered from the narrative.

          Sounds like to me he took his couple hundred and opened a restaurant in Cozumel, the success of which then propelled him to the ability to immigrate. So it wouldn’t have been a lowly taco stand owner sneaking across the border, but rather a successful businessman seeking to expand his market (a bit more palatable to immigration officials, no?)…

    • Hello, he married an american woman, my mother. She was born and raised in Az. Which is why he came-Yolanda Treves

    • Hi! I am Moises daughter, Yolanda Treves. He came to Arizona with my mother a Phoenix native. They were married in Cozumel, later went to key west where I was born and eventually ended up here in Arizona:-)

  3. I’m glad you wrote about this story so many years later. I try to watch reruns of unsolved mysteries whenever I can bc I find comfort in the nostalgia of it. The story of such is life was on today’s episode and I wanted to Google it to see if the restaurant is still open. It isn’t but I came across your post. I was happy to see its only almost 2 years old because sharing this story helps people remember pure kindness and helps keep discouragement of humanity at bay. Thank you for posting this old but still very relevant story:)

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