WRD 422 Syllabus (Spring 2016)

WRD 422

Taco Literacy:

Public Advocacy and Mexican Food in the U.S. South 

Steven Alvarez, PhD

WRD 422, Sec 001 / Spring 2016

Office: POT 1313

T/R 2:00 pm-3:15 pm


Fine Arts Bldg, Rm. 0308B-FA


Office Hours: Thurs 12:00-1:45 PM

(859) 218-0958

This course will examine transnational community food literacies, and how these connect stories of people build publics across borders. Students will explore the history and networks of Mexican and Mexican American food in the United States writing about recipes as well as rhetorics of authenticity, local variations to preparation or presentation, and how food literacies situate different spaces, identities, and forms of knowledge.

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Required Texts

Planet Taco: A Global History of Mexican Food by Jeffrey M. Pilcher

Tacopedia by Deborah Holtz and Juan Carlos Mena

Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America by Gustavo Arellano

Tortillas: A Cultural History by Paula E. Morton

Course Goals

  1. Students will begin by writing their personal connections to Mexican food, their preferences and their sense of what Mexican food means culturally as part of American and global cuisine.
  2. Students will engage with the history of a particular dish of their preference and further research into the topic connected to variances, local varieties, and the movement of the dish to different locations.
  3. Students will engage the global perspective of the Pilcher’s Planet Taco with the national context of Arellano’s Taco USA tied to local, Kentucky responses and varieties of Mexican food.
  4. Students will engage a digital platform to blog reactions to texts and to publish their fieldwork and research into local Mexican restaurants.

Tardiness, Attendance, Participation, and Late Work Policies

TARDIES: We meet at 2:00pm—not 2:10, not 2:20, and certainly not 2:30. I do not tolerate tardiness, and I find it disrespectful. If you have problems with the time commitment for this course, I suggest finding another section that better suits your schedule. Excessive tardiness will be noted and will affect your final grade.

ATTENDANCE: Attendance is mandatory. Class discussion depends on the entire class being present. Because this course meets two times a week, you are allowed three unexcused absences throughout the course. After that, your final grade will drop by one letter grade for each additional absence. Prolonged absences due to illness or absences due to having to attend a university-sponsored event (athletics, theater, music, field trip) will be excused if you provide me with proper documentation from an appropriate authority. You are responsible for all work due for any missed class as well as for the readings and work for the following class. You are also responsible for any work covered during the class you missed. You should get the phone numbers of a couple of your classmates in case you miss a class. You can also contact me by e-mail.

PARTICIPATION: Students must participate actively in class. This is not a lecture course; it is a hands-on course where participation and interaction are required for learning and success. Participation means being a part of class (not checking e-mail, texting, playing games, doing homework for other classes). Be aware that grades for participation are not only based on how much you talk in class but also how respectful you are to your classmates, to me, and to your work.

LATE WORK: The assignments in this class build upon one another and culminate in your final research assignment. It is necessary for you, then, to complete each assignment before the next begins. Late or skipped assignments will seriously hinder this process. I RESERVE THE RIGHT NOT TO ACCEPT ASSIGNMENTS PUBLISHED LATE. That’s in bold and caps so you get my emphasis, de veras.  If you feel that you will not be able to make a deadline, or if you must miss class on the day the assignment is due, you must contact me in advance so we can work something out. If your assignment is not published by the time I get to where I ask you to publish it online, I will skip you in the grading and you will receive no points. Don’t take the chance my friends.

Assignment Platforms

The research project is a term long, and it will be completed in stages—assignments 1-5 and published as a WordPress website. Your assignments will focus on issues discussed in class, or your reflections responding to readings/documentaries/writing from the course. Three major assignments will form the core of your study. You can use your Instagram posts/images/videos to compose these assignments, but you must edit the pieces. Each assignment will be published on your WordPress site.

Your assignments will be published on a site that will become an extended single text archived online. The revised larger project will develop with the additional information and insights you gain through your fieldwork as you become more familiar with the about Mexican food, literacies, and local issues. With a research assignment like this, you will be free to add information and observations gained over time instead of feeling that earlier assumptions and conclusions are set in stone. Use the readings in class and your instincts to guide your topic choice and how you connect all five assignments.

You will depend on your classmates, tutors in the Writing Center, and me as readers who will help you make decisions about how to present material and how best to interest your audience, but ultimately you will be the expert on your particular study of your chosen topic. You can spend a lot of time developing and revising, working on certain aspects of your writing, and all of this effort and expertise will be reflected in your final project and your grade. That means that your attention to revision and your awareness of your own work habits, strengths, and weaknesses will become a very important element of your writing process. Your final course grade will be based primarily on your participation, active blogging, and your community engagement.

Assignment Dates

Assignment 1: 2/2

Assignment 2: 2/18

Assignment 3: 3/8, 3/10

Assignment 4: 4/7

Assignment 5: 5/3

All assignments will be published as pages on your website.

Instagram and WordPress Posts

You will compose 20 Instagram and 20 WordPress posts for the semester. This will generate material for you to use for your formal assignments, as well as serve as a space for you to experiment with archiving your research. The dates for the sets of 5 posts are listed below.

Posts Set 1:  1/28

Posts Set 2:  2/16

Posts Set 3:  3/8

Posts Set 4:  4/5


Evaluation / Grading

The break-down of grading is as follows:

IG Posts:                  10 POINTS

20 x 0.5 points each


WordPress Posts:    10 POINTS

20 x 0.5 points each


Compositions:        65 POINTS

Assignment 1              10 points

Assignment 2              10 points

Assignment 3              10 points

Assignment 4              15 points

Assignment 5              15 points


Participation            15 POINTS


Total                                     100 POINTS


Grade Equivalencies:

A         90-100

B         80-89

C         70-79

D         60-69

E          0-59

Academic Integrity Policy

Section VI of the University of Kentucky Student Affairs Code states that all academic work‚ written or otherwise‚ submitted by students to their instructors or other academic supervisors‚ is expected to be the result of their own thought‚ research‚ or self–expression. See section 6.3.1; online at http://www.uky.edu/StudentAffairs/Code/Section%20VI.pdf.

In cases where students feel unsure about a question of plagiarism involving their work‚ they are obliged to consult their instructors on the matter before submission. When students submit work purporting to be their own‚ but which in any way borrows ideas‚ organization‚ wording or anything else from another source without appropriate acknowledgment of the fact‚ the students are guilty of plagiarism. Plagiarism includes reproducing someone else’s work‚ whether published or not. Evidence of plagiarism will be dealt with according to the university’s regulations.

Writing Center

The UK Writing Center tutors are trained to help you revise your writing. If you believe you need additional help with your writing, or if I ask you to set up a regular meeting with a tutor, you should make an appointment at least one week prior to when an assignment is due. You can also get online help by visiting the Writing Center. The Writing Center is located in W.T. Young Library, Room B 108B, in the Hub (lower level).

I offer one point of extra credit for each documented tutoring session you’ve attended. See me for details if interested.

Students with Special Needs

If you are registered with the Disability Resource Center (DRC) and require special accommodations to complete the work for this course, you must produce a letter from the DRC that details what you need before I can grant you these accommodations. Special accommodations cannot be granted retroactively. This is a non-negotiable class policy. Please contact the DRC at 257-2754 if you have questions about your eligibility for special accommodations.


Class Calendar


Week 1

Jan 14: Article from community literacy journal and Mexican food. Free-write about Mexican food. Class blog: creating your URL, username, and password. Also your Instagram account for class. Find images to upload your free-write. Begin reading “Sombreros Over the South” by Gustavo Arellano (distributed in class).

Homework: Finish reading article and publish your free-writing exercise from class. Email me your WordPress URL steven.alvarez@uky.edu


Week 2

Jan 19: Discussion of “Sombreros Over the South”: searching for images and reviewing food experiences. Also Google map search of Mexican restaurants in Lexington and greater Kentucky. Also further review of Southern Foodways Alliance website and podcasts. Looking for more research for your first writing.

Homework: Review the Southern Foodways Alliance oral history project “Bluegrass and Birria.”


Jan 21: Reviewing “Bluegrass and Birria”. Checking reviews for the profiled restaurants. Begin looking at the Hot Tamale Trail. Plan on locating two locations to conduct your research. We will create a list next class of locations from everyone.

Homework: Continue with the Tamale Trail. Also bring Tacopedia to next class, and locate two locations to review. *The deadline for going to one of these places is Feb 1, Assignment 1.


Week 3

Jan 26: Review of the Hot Tamale Trail and overview of Tacopedia’s design and images. Also watching the documentary, “Un Buen Carnicero.”

Homework: Review locations for your food of focus via Instagram. You should also include five images for your blog that you will use for Assignment 1. Your first five posts are also due. The posts should offer compliments to the images you collect, whether they are images you published on Instagram or not.


Jan 28: Five images due published on Instagram and 5 posts on WordPress.

Homework: Complete Assignment 1.

Week 4

Feb 2: Review posts and mapping sources. Publish Assignment 1.

Homework: Read Taco USA, Introduction, Chapter 1. Begin searching for quotes from the book to speak about in class, and also type up key quotes from each chapter on your blog. We will use these for class discussion.


Feb 4: Discussion of Taco USA. Breaking into groups reading over “Some Restaurants in the South Stretch the Definition of Burrito” and the fivethirtyeight.com Best Burrito tournament. Connecting to Arellano quotes and finding things to cite. Analyzing quotes, and also citing sources. Also watching Culchi Town

Homework: Taco USA, Chapter 3, Chapter 4, Chapter 9, and Chapter 11. For two of these chapters, find key quotes to type into your blog.


Week 5

Feb 9: Discussion of Taco USA, preparing issues to discuss with Arellano. Also preview of the television show Bordertown. We will draw up a set of questions, but also bring comments and questions for Arellano about Mexican food in your experience in Kentucky.

Homework: Continue with Taco USA, Chapter 13, and Conclusion


Feb 11: Class Skype session with Gustavo Arellano about Sur-Mex, Mexican food, and writing.

Homework: Upload your next five images on your blog that will be included for your next project. Your next set of blog posts and IG posts are due next class.


Week 6

Feb 16: 5 images due published on Instagram and 5 posts on WordPress. Debrief with interview session with Arellano and finish with Taco USA.

Homework: Complete Assignment 2, publish on site. Be sure to give yourself credit on the byline.


Feb 18: Assignment 2 due. No class

Homework: Begin reading Planet Taco, Introduction and Chapter 1.


Week 7

Feb 23: Reviewing Planet Taco.

Homework: Continue Planet Taco Chapters 2 and 3. Add three quotes so far from the reading in a blog post. You should also give the page numbers and three sentences of close reading of the quote. Pay attention to the language in the quotes and use it to help you read the passage.


Feb 25: Guest visitor: class tasting*. Further discussion of Planet Taco.

Homework: Continue Planet Taco Chapters 4 and 5.


Week 8

Mar 1: Continue discussion of Planet Taco and researching further themes from the book online.

Homework: Complete Planet Taco Chapters 6 and 7. Add four more key quotes from the book in chapters you found relevant. Again, add page numbers and offer reflection of the quotes passages.


Mar 3: Meeting in Hub of Young Library for the WRD Undergraduate Symposium.

Homework: Prepare materials for both portions of midterm due next week on specified days and times.


*Mar 5 (Saturday): Mexington Taco Tour, 12-2:30 pm. We will meet in front of POT if you need a ride otherwise we can car pool.


Week 9

Mar 8: Midterm Assignment 3: Part 1: Must be published March 8 by 6pm; 5 images on Instagram due and 5 WordPress posts. These should include images for your next restaurant review.


Mar 10: Midterm Assignment 3: Part 2: Must be published March 10 by 6pm. Your interview with connections to Planet Taco and Taco USA.


Week 10

Mar 15: Spring Break

Mar 17: Spring Break


Week 11

Mar 22: Reviewing materials for class and returning to Taco USA and Planet Taco. Beginning to read “Appraising Tacos” by Samantha Duncan.

Homework: Continue reading “Appraising Tacos”.


Mar 24: Discussion of “Appraising Tacos” and the style of the text.

Homework: Finish reading “Appraising Tacos.” Find two key passages to quote from “Appraising Tacos.” Also note that this text was composed by an undergraduate senior thesis. Review the sources to the text for further ideas for research.


Week 12

Mar 29: Class Skype session with Javier Cabral of Vice Munchies. Review of works cited of “Appraising Tacos” and composing food studies.

Homework: Read De Aquí y de Allá” by Dura, Salas, Medina-Jerez, and Hill (available on Project Muse: Community Literacy Journal 10.1, 2015, pgs 21-39). Use UK Library databases.


Mar 31: Reading about connecting literacies to food and local communities. Learning and funds of knowledge, Mexican food, and literacy. How could students learn ____ through food?

Homework: Continue with the article. Also complete next set of blog and Instagram posts related to ideas for funds of knowledge, learning, and food studies.


Week 13

Apr 5: 5 Instagram photos due and 5 WordPress posts due.

Homework: Complete Assignment 4, to be published on your website as a page. Continue reading the UNESCO report.


Apr 7: No Class CCCC: Assignment 4 due 5pm

Homework: Begin reading Tortillas prologue, Chapter 1, and Chapter 2.


Week 14

Apr 12: Class Skype session with Anna Barry-Jester of fivethirtyeight.com.

Homework: Read Tortillas Chapters, 1, 2 and 3.


Apr 14: Discussing Tortillas. Also watching The Fruits of Mexico’s Cheap Labor about transnational labor.

Homework: Continue reading Tortillas Chapter 5 and 6.


Week 15

Apr 19: Discussing Tortillas. Begin watching East of Salinas.

Homework: Finish Tortillas.


Apr 21: Discussing Tortillas and finish watching East of Salinas.

Homework: Finish your second restaurant visit if you haven’t done so already.


Week 16

Apr 26: Review of materials for your final project. The Best Place for Food in Mexico


Also reviewing article and exploring UNESCO and Mexican cuisine.

Homework: Complete final project.


Apr 28: Last Class. Watching “Mexican People Try Taco Bell for the First Time”


*Assignment 5 due May 3 5pm