It is important to remember that though tacos are of Mexican origin, there is not an archetypal kind of Mexican taco. Mexican people incorporate the recipes and cooking styles of indigenous and European people into their own. According to Tacopedia, an informative tome written by Déborah Holtz and Juan Carlos Mena, the taco is the focal point of Mexican cuisine. The taco, simply described as a tortilla wrapped around food, is known worldwide for its Mexican roots, and known in Mexico as part of the Mexican culture.
The phrase, “echarse un taco,” to grab a taco, has become so prevalent in Mexico that it is now synonymous with getting any kind of food. Many Mexican sayings incorporate tacos as well, including but not limited to, “Le echas mucha crema a tus tacos,” which means you add a lot of sour cream to your tacos, and describes someone who thinks very, possibly too, highly of himself or herself. Though this is certainly interesting, it is not the only way tacos have been integrated into Mexico’s general culture.
The process of nixtamal is also well-known in Mexico and used to create the tortilla- the soft outer shell of the taco that holds all the ingredients. Maize is boiled in diluted quicklime, and the kernels are left out over night. This allows the mixture of cornmeal and maize flour to become malleable and cohesive. This process dates back to 1,000 and 500 B.C. when the taco was “created” as an edible spoon. Due to its ability to hold a number of foods, Holtz and Mena note that there are many variations of the taco, and they are all ubiquitous in Mexico.
The hard taco shell was created so that Mexican food could travel beyond Mexican culture. The traditional tortilla does not last very long; sitting out for twenty-four hours can leave the tortilla stale. The hard shell, however, is fried, wrapped in plastic, and can sit until it needs to be used. This is helpful when goods are being transported out of Mexican communities and spread all over the world.
Even with the many different versions produced by the Mexican people, Tacos still continue to be redesigned all over the world. For example, if one were to ask for tacos in California, he or she may be served smoked marlin tacos: marlin wrapped in a tortilla with cilantro, cabbage, tomatoes, and red onion. If this same question was asked in Sweden, it is likely one will get a Gringa Taco: corn tortilla filled with cheese and seasoned beef, served with salsa, cilantro, and onion. Due to their presence worldwide, tacos have become a defining aspect of Mexican culture.
As you can see, the taco is a strong part of Mexican culture. Its variance makes it even more popular worldwide, and Mexico can take pride in the fact that they have an international presence. This is evident because of the many chain restaurants that were created to serve Mexican food. Just a few examples are Taco Bell, Chipotle, Blue Burrito, and California Tortilla, and interestingly enough, these all exist either on campus or downtown.