Vivian Liberto, Johnny Cash's First Wife, Part of Family That Invented Ballpark Nachos

Oh, the things I've discovered in the course of researching my coming book on the history of Mexican food in the United States. You're going to have to wait for next April for the astounding ones, but while reviewing my last, late chapters, I remembered one random factoid that shows how pervasive Mexican food is in American culture. Yes, Virgina: Vivian Liberto, Johnny Cash's first wife, mother of Roseanne Cash, belongs to the family that invented ballpark nachos.

Liberto's grandfather, Frank Liberto, was a Sicilian immigrant who started an import market in San Antonio in the 1910s that eventually expanded to focus on concessions. While Vivian's father, Thomas, became an insurance salesman, it was her uncle, Enrico, who continued the family business under the name Liberto Specialty Co. through the 1930s. And it was Vivian's cousin, Frank (Enrico's son), who in 1976 sat down with the city of Arlington, Texas (which ran the concessions at the Texas Rangers' home stadium), and carried through their wish: to sell nachos at the ballpark the following season.

The rest, as they say, is history covered in rivers of quickly coagulating orange cheese topped with jalapeños. The mind boggles with revisionist history. If Cash hadn't divorced Liberto, would he have invested money in his cousin-in-law's business? Gives a new meaning to "Ring of Fire," no*?

*Okay, I know "Ring of Fire" was written by June Carter Cash describing her then-forbidden love for Johnny behind Vivian's back, but just go with it. . . .

Follow Stick a Fork In It on Twitter @ocweeklyfood or on Facebook


All-access pass to the top stories, events and offers around town.

  • Top Stories


All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >