My civic artifact will be the taco. Yes, at a first glance it doesn’t seem like a terribly good choice; but think about it. It is a device used by capitalist fast food chains that creates a misrepresented common place. It is our civil duty to respect the cultures around us and to realize that they are beautiful without having to adapt them and assimilate them into our own “American” version of it. Don’t get me wrong, Tex-Mex food is beautiful in its own way; but I feel that in American culture there is a tendency to morph and adapt almost anything to find what sells the most. The following is an outline for my speech.
I would like to discuss a very common and widely known Mexican cuisine, the taco. A taco as we all know consists of only two elements, a tortilla and of course the filling, which is generally some kind of meat. And in case you haven’t noticed these things are everywhere; Taco Bell, Chipotle and even California Tortilla to name a few are making huge money selling there versions of the taco to customers looking for a change up from the regular fast food they usually get. Who is to blame them? Honestly these things are good.
Some History and Differences between American and Mexican Tacos.
As we all know tacos originated in Mexico, and have been documented as far as Pre-Colombian period. And have not evolved much from then until today. But what has changed is the public’s view of what a Mexican taco actually is. For a second here I am going to ask you all to forget everything you know about tacos. No cheese, or sour cream, or even chili because none of that is really authentically Mexican. Its Tex-Mex. Think about a small corn tortilla which could probably fit in the palm of your hand, warm, slightly moist, and a little crunchy but mostly floppy. Different right? But that is only the tip of the iceberg. The meat is not ground beef, we use flank steak, juicy fine cut pork chops and the incomparable pastor meat. Generally, to top it off we garnish with lime, some salt, cilantro, onion, pineapple and salsa (Which I could discuss on its own).
Why is the taco a Civic Artifact?
How did all of these differences come about? Surely it just had to do with the mixing of cultures, especially along the boarder… right? Well no, not quite. It turns out that Tex-Mex food as the name would indicate was created in Texans, by Texans, which to be fair, did not identify as completely American or completely Mexican. They incorporated the use of flour tortillas, beans and cheese, leading to a new branch of cuisine in itself. In fact many historians also say that this adaptation arose due to the ranch/cowboy culture that grew during this period, which was more American than it was Mexican. As you can see it is beginning to look more and more like the tacos you all know and love today. During the 20th we can begin to see changes in the economy. Increased automation, reducing costs of agricultural goods, and the rise of the fast food industry. Instead of offering the public American food from a particular place and time, it was just easier to say “hey its pretty close to Mexican isn’t it”. Throw in some aztec like geometric patterns and some salsa music and it is practically a fiesta!
This is not an appropriate representation of Mexican cuisine, or let alone Mexican culture. In order to market their food a common place was created; a land where the desert heat and lazy population can party, eat tacos and drink tequila. Sadly, this has happened to other cultures too. It has happened to Italian and Chinese cuisine and they have both, to some extent or another, seen their culture degraded by the thirst to purse the almighty dollar. Hence, it is our civil duty to avoid this type of generalization. To stop grouping and classifying things loosely in order to generate some profit.