Today we started off class with some questions to get us thinking about how some of the themes in Taco USA come together. The taco crew responded to these questions as comments to this post. The questions about Taco USA were:
- What are themes you have seen emerge in the book?
- How do you describe his writing style?
- What are the claims/arguments Arellano makes about Mexican food in the USA?
- Where are counterstories he narrates in his book?
From the comments below, we can see some critical responses forming that connect to ideologies, appropriation, and cultural dignity. Here’s a recap, though you can see the comments down below.
The taco crew brought up fantastic points about narratives, stories, power, languages, fast food/slow food, and aspects of identity. Clearly, then, there’s some taco literacy happening! But more importantly, that history and food are tightly bound to people, and in the history of the USA, this means understanding the unique history of the nation and how it emerged over time. There was some sense that “American food” is “just there” (as Cindy put it in class), but with this book, we see how what we understand what is has a history, and that sometimes we have to uncover the hidden histories to know more about how stories are political, and how important it is to recover voices lost by history.
And, yes, those histories! Folks brought up much with regard to the story of Mitla Cafe that Arellano recovers. Well, put it that way, and we have to ask, what’s the master narrative that Arellano disrupts? No doubt, the Taco Bell story.
Since this is one official story, we also thought we should check out more about how Taco Bell tells its story, to check to see if they give Mitla Cafe any props for inspiration. Also, this is an exercise to disrupt that idea that Taco Bell is “just there” and we can demystify it as a corporation that has a story, one that it likes to tell about itself that may or may not give credit to the Mexican folks whose food the corporation sells. So we checked out tacobell.com.
First, we noted how the web design resembles our blogs for class. The pages are arranged on a sidebar to the left, and the posts are scrollable. From the website, we did some navigating to arrange at the “about” page for Taco Bell, where we get an option for their history. Taco Bell was so kind so as to provide a timeline:
As we suspected, Mitla Cafe was not mentioned. So we can see a counternarrative happening in Arellano. We can see competing narratives, competing histories, and also the importance of recovering the stories of folks who have been omitted from the “official” history.
A little bit further, though. We checked out the website for Yum! Brands, Taco Bell’s parent company.
Again, note the design of the website, the layout of pages and posts. Looks something like the Taco Literacy homepage!
We noted the brands of Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, and KFC all arranged in the corner of the website. We started to demystify some of the things we had known from experience: that some Taco Bells are also Pizza Huts, and some KFCs are also Taco Bells. We started to see how all three companies are related, and also the corporate structure of branding, and telling the “official history.” So much more complex than thinking about fast food being “just there” but also the production of an American cuisine, fast food. But this family connection made sense, then, why such things like “Mexican Pizza” are on Taco Bell’s menu:
While students were working through writing the themes and elements about Arellano’s libro, we listened to a report from Latino USA. We listened to a Tacumentary that covered three boroughs, Queens, Manhattan, and Brooklyn in search of the best tacos.
The report touched on some aspects of Poblano migration to NYC, and also how this affected NYC’s sense of Latinidad. We had some discussion about what it means to be Latina/o/x in the USA, and I recommended students check
We also followed Latino USA on Instagram.
We finished class with the story of Gueleguetza and Oaxacan immigrants in California.
(By the way, compare the tlayuda above with the Mexican pizza in the IG post above.) The name of the restaurant comes from the festival in Oaxaca.
We finished close reading the story of Gueleguetza, while also thinking about indigeneity in Mexico, and how being indigenous in Mexico compares/relates to being indigenous in the USA. It was also enlightening to read more about the varieties of discrimination Mexicanos face from other Mexicanos. This counternarrative disrupts notions of homogeneity among Mexicanos in the USA.