Culture

Latinos And Muslims Are Having Cross-Cultural Exchanges During Ramadan Thanks To Halal Tacos

Organizer-activists Rida Hamida and Benjamin Vazquez are bringing taco trucks to mosques all over Orange County, Calif. in an attempt to help bridge the divide between the Latino and Muslim communities. Their event, #TacoTrucksAtEveryMosque, seeks to bring together two communities facing increased scrutiny — and hate crimes — in recent months. According to Hamida and Vazquez, the best way to achieve their goal was to get people to sit down and eat together when Muslims break their fast at sundown during the holy month of Ramadan. But they didn’t pick just any food, the organizers knew the importance of being culturally sensitive and appropriate, so they found a taco truck that would serve halal food. Mitú was at the latest meet up and spoke with the organizers about why this event is so necessary right now.

We are currently in the holy month of Ramadan, a time when practicing Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset to get closer to God.

Julie Leopo / mitú

“Ramadan is an Arabic name for the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar. This month is observed with fasting. During this month, the Prophet Muhammad received God’s first revelation. We fast every day this month from sunrise to sunset,” Muzammil Siddiqi, the Religious Director of Islamic Society of Orange County and attendee at the event, told mitú. “It does teach you discipline and helps you focus. It also teaches you patience and lets you reflect and be thankful. Many times you take food and water for granted, so when we fast and finally have food and water we are thankful.”

#TacoTrucksAtEveryMosque is a nod to the #TacoTrucksOnEveryStreetCorner moment from the 2016 presidential campaign.

Julie Leopo / mitú

Hamida told mitú that early on, food seemed like the best way to get these communities together. They discussed finding a taco truck that was willing to provide culturally and religiously appropriate foods to the Muslim community they were looking to serve. They remembered the “taco trucks on every corner” moment from the 2016 presidential campaign and knew that to really send a message, they needed to get taco trucks to the mosques.

The idea of using halal tacos to create cross-cultural conversations has been working, according to Hamida.

Julie Leopo / mitú

“We are seeing people learning how to be patient, open-minded, and open-hearted. They are learning to do that through food, because you know, when you are protesting you are angry, and you don’t get to know the people around you when you’re protesting,” Hamida told mitú. “You are just fighting that fight, but we aren’t really nurturing one another. It’s a one-way conversation and we are fighting for justice in front of these institutions, but this is a different type of protest and resistance; this is a very nurturing resistance, a very soulful resistance. We are coming together and really feeding our souls through our food and our culture.”

And it isn’t just Latinos and Muslims exchanging ideas. Hamida told mitú that the last event attracted some Trump supporters who were curious about the event, but did not want to talk politics.

Julie Leopo / mitú

“When you are able to sit with people that you don’t meet eye to eye with you’re also able to grow with them,” Hamida told mitú about reaching across cultural and political divides to foster a true sense of community and understanding. “The feeling is uncomfortable but you’re serving these people food and generously, how could they say no to that? We are inviting them whole-heartedly, to experience our culture and faith. This is not a demonstration — this is about community and connecting. He [a Trump supporter] didn’t want to talk politics with me, but he did want to sit at the same table and eat with me.”

This isn’t the first time that Hamida and Vazquez have worked together to bring these two communities together.

Julie Leopo / mitú

“We have been teaming up together the past two years to do Little Arabia tours with the Latino community to see how we are connected,” Vazquez told mitú about the work he has done with Hamida. “Going back to a time in Spain where Jews, Muslims, and Catholics lived together for 800 years in Spain, and just to reconnect through that and bring people into Little Arabia having the food and talking about food. This year we did a hijab day where women who weren’t Muslim came and wore a hijab, and we had traditional women who wear hijabs give their experiences and what it meant to them and the feminism behind that.”

Vazquez wants for other Latino and Muslim communities to follow suit and bridge the cultural divide to discover how similar the two cultures truly are.

Julie Leopo / mitú

According to Vazquez, there is something powerful about getting together with people of different walks of life and sharing food that breaks down those barriers that we think make us different.

“You’ll come to find that we are all alike, and there’s nothing to fear; we are just human beings,” Vazquez told mitú.

Julie Leopo / mitú

Vazquez also told mitú that it is important not to let fear becoming a driving factor in who you meet and talk to. Instead, try to look past the political rhetoric and media narratives that are pulling us apart and build a larger community.

Siddiqi also has a message for people who might not understand or know the Muslim community.

Julie Leopo / mitú

“I would say come and visit us, come eat with us. See how Muslims live, don’t leave it up to your imagination, because people are enemies of things they do not know. So know us, that way you can have the chance to appreciate our culture and understand that we do not represent what prejudice people say about us.”

If you would like to learn more about this unity movement, visit Latino Muslim Unity on Facebook or their website.

Julie Leopo contributed to the reporting of this story.


READ: These Muslim Latinos Practice Their Faith At The Only Spanish Speaking Mosque In The Country

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Family Of Man Who Died From Taco Eating Contest Sue Fresno Grizzlies Owner

Entertainment

Family Of Man Who Died From Taco Eating Contest Sue Fresno Grizzlies Owner

Dana Hutchings, 41, entered a taco eating contest during a Fresno Grizzlies game in 2019. He choked and died during the contest and now his son has filed a lawsuit against the baseball team.

The son of a man who died from a taco eating contest is suing for wrongful death.

Dana Hutchings, 41, died after choking during a taco eating contest during a Fresno Grizzlies game. His son has filed a wrongful death lawsuit claiming that the event organizers were not equipped to host the event. Furthermore, the lawsuit claims that the organizers failed to provide a medical response team.

“People say all the time he knew what he was getting into, well clearly he didn’t,” Martin Taleisnik, an attorney representing Hutchings’ son, Marshall told CBS17.

Marshall and his attorney are pushing back at the notion that Dana should have known better.

People have sounded off on social media criticizing the family for filing the lawsuit. Yet, the family and their attorney are calling attention to the lack of information given to contestants.

“If you don’t know all the pitfalls, how can you truly be consenting and participating freely and voluntarily? It’s a risk that resulted in a major loss to Marshall,” Taleisnik told CBS17.

Dana’s family is seeking a monetary settlement from the Fresno Grizzlies owners.

The wrongful death lawsuit names Fresno Sports and Events as the responsible party. The lawsuit also notes that alcohol was made available to contestants and added to the likelihood of the tragedy.

“We are devastated to learn that the fan that received medical attention following an event at Tuesday evening’s game has passed away. The Fresno Grizzlies extend our heartfelt prayers and condolences to the family of Mr. Hutchings,” a statement from the Fresno Grizzlies read after the death in 2019. “The safety and security of our fans is our highest priority. We will work closely with local authorities and provide any helpful information that is requested.”

READ: Kobe Bryant’s Wrongful Death Lawsuit Has Tragically Been Moved To Federal Court Despite Vanessa Bryant’s Pleas

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From COVID To Elections, Here’s Why Misinformation Targets Latinos

Things That Matter

From COVID To Elections, Here’s Why Misinformation Targets Latinos

One of the big surprises of the 2020 election was how even though most Latino voters across the U.S. voted for Joe Biden, in some counties of competitive states like Florida and Texas, a higher-than-expected percentage of Latinos supported Donald Trump. One factor that many believe played a role: online misinformation about the Democratic candidate.

Another important subject that’s been victim of a massive misinformation campaign is the Coronavirus pandemic and the ongoing vaccination program. But why does #fakenews so heavily target the Latino community?

Since the 2020 campaign, a large misinformation campaign has target Latinos.

Although fake news is nothing new, in the campaign leading up to the 2020 elections it morphed into something more sinister – a campaign to influence Latino voters with false information. The largely undetected movement helped depress turnout and spread disinformation about Democrat Joe Biden.

The effort showed how social media and other technology can be leveraged to spread misinformation so quickly that those trying to stop it cannot keep up. There were signs that it worked as Donald Trump swung large numbers of Latino votes in the 2020 presidential race in some areas that had been Democratic strongholds.

Videos and pictures were doctored. Quotes were taken out of context. Conspiracy theories were fanned, including that voting by mail was rigged, that the Black Lives Matter movement had ties to witchcraft and that Biden was beholden to a cabal of socialists.

That flow of misinformation has only intensified since Election Day, researchers and political analysts say, stoking Trump’s baseless claims that the election was stolen and false narratives around the mob that overran the Capitol. More recently, it has morphed into efforts to undermine vaccination efforts against the coronavirus.

The misinformation campaign could have major impacts on our politics.

Several misinformation researchers say there is an alarming amount of misinformation about voter fraud and Democratic leaders being shared in Latino social media communities. Biden is a popular target, with misinformation ranging from exaggerated claims that he embraces Fidel Castro-style socialism to more patently false and outlandish ones, for instance that the president-elect supports abortion minutes before a child’s birth or that he orchestrated a caravan of Cuban immigrants to infiltrate the US Southern border and disrupt the election process.

Democratic strategists looking ahead to the 2022 midterm elections are concerned about how this might sway Latino voters in the future. They acknowledge that conservatives in traditional media and the political establishment have pushed false narratives as well, but say that social media misinformation deserves special attention: It appears to be a growing problem, and it can be hard to track and understand.

Some believe that Latinos may be more likely to believe a message shared by friends, family members, or people from their cultural community in a WhatsApp or Telegram group rather than an arbitrary mainstream US news outlet; research has found that people believe news articles more when they’re shared by people they trust.

Fake news is also impacting our community’s response to the pandemic.

Vaccination programs work best when as many people as possible get vaccinated, but Latinos in the United States are getting inoculated at lower rates.

In Florida, for example, Latinos are 27% of the population but they’ve made up only about 17% of COVID-19 vaccinations so far, according to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation. And Latinos are relying on social media and word-of-mouth for information on vaccines — even when it’s wrong. There’s myths circulating around the vaccine, whether you can trust it and the possible the long-term effects.

And it’s not just obstacles to getting information in Spanish, but also in many of the native Mayan indigenous languages that farmworkers speak in South Florida.

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