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.

CREDIT: 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.

CREDIT: 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.

CREDIT: 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.

CREDIT: 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.

CREDIT: 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.

CREDIT: 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.

CREDIT: 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.

CREDIT: 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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The Number Of Latinos In The U.S Killed By Covid-19 Surpasses 44,500 With No Signs Of Slowing Down

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The Number Of Latinos In The U.S Killed By Covid-19 Surpasses 44,500 With No Signs Of Slowing Down

Wilfredo Lee / Getty Images

For months we have heard stories from our neighbors and our friends of people losing loved ones to Covid-19. It seems that with each passing day the degrees of separation from ourselves and the virus gets smaller and smaller.

Although this is true for all demographics, it’s particularly true for the Latino community. New data shows that although Latinos make up about 19% of the national population, we account for nearly a third of all deaths. These numbers are staggering and experts are warning that entire communities are being decimated by the pandemic.

More than 44,500 Latinos have died of Covid-19 in the United States.

It’s no secret that the Coronavirus has ravaged our community but now we have concrete numbers that show just how bad the pandemic has been among Latinos. According to new data from the COVID Tracking Project, over 44,500 of the nearly 211,000 people in the U.S. killed by the Coronavirus to date are Latino.

While Latinos are under 19 percent of the U.S. population, we make up almost one-third of Coronavirus deaths nationwide, according to CDC data analyzed by Salud America, a health research institute in San Antonio. Among some age groups, like those 35 to 44, the distribution of Latino Covid deaths is almost 50 percent; among Latinos ages 45-54, it’s almost 44 percent.

Experts say several factors account for higher COVID-19 death and infection rates among Latinos versus whites, including poverty, health care disparities, the prevalence of serious underlying medical conditions, and greater exposure to the virus at work because of the kinds of working-class, essential jobs many Latinos have.

Many Latinos who have been infected or died of the Coronavirus are front-line or essential workers.

Credit: Wilfredo Lee / Getty Images

So many of our family members and neighbors work jobs that are now considered “essential.” From building cleaning services, to restaurant workers, grocery store employees, nurses, and farm workers, our community is on the front lines more than any other community in this fight against the pandemic.

In fact, 41.2 percent of all front-line workers are Black, Hispanic or Asian-American/Pacific Islander, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, an economic policy think tank. Hispanics are especially overrepresented in building cleaning services (40.2 percent of workers).

Latinos also have the highest uninsured rates of any racial or ethnic group in the U.S., according to the Department of Health and Human Services. All of these factors add up to a dangerous and deadly combination that has resulted in the outsized number of deaths among Latinos.

Some are saying that the virus is causing the ‘historic decimation’ of Latinos.

Speaking at a virtual Congressional Hispanic Caucus meeting last week, a global health expert warned that the Coronavirus is causing “the historic decimation” of the Latino community, ravaging generations of loved ones in Hispanic families.

To illustrate his point, Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of Tropical Medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, read off descriptions of people who died on Aug. 13 in Houston alone.

“Hispanic male, Hispanic male, Hispanic male, black male, Hispanic male, black male, Hispanic male, Hispanic female, black female, black male, Hispanic, Hispanic, Hispanic, Hispanic, Hispanic, Hispanic” Hotez said, adding that many are people in their 40s, 50s and 60s.

“This virus is taking away a whole generation of mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters, you know, who are young kids, teenage kids. And it occurred to me that what we’re seeing really is the historic decimation among the Hispanic community by the virus,” he said.

Dr. Anthony Fauci – a popular figure in the fight against Coronavirus – has also raised the alarm.

The nation’s leading infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, gave a recent update on the impact on the Latino community. He pointed out that hospitalizations among Latinos 359 per 100,000 compared to 78 in whites. Deaths related to Covid-19 are 61 per 100,000 in the Latino population compared to 40 in whites, and Latinos represent 45 percent of deaths of people younger than 21, Fauci said.

Fauci said the country can begin to address this “extraordinary problem” now by making sure the community gets adequate testing and immediate access to care. But he said this is not a one-shot resolution.

“This must now reset and re-shine a light on this disparity related to social determinants of health that are experienced by the Latinx community — the fact that they have a higher incidence of co-morbidities, which put you at risk,” Fauci said.

Fauci also urged the Latino congressional members on the call to get their Latino constituents to consider enrolling in vaccination trials so they can be proven to be safe in everyone, including African Americans and Latinos.

“We need to get a diverse representation of the population in the clinical trials,” he said.

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You Can Order A ‘Taco Vacuna’ And ‘La Cura’ At This Covid 19-Themed Taqueria


You Can Order A ‘Taco Vacuna’ And ‘La Cura’ At This Covid 19-Themed Taqueria

Tacovid: SaborViral / Facebook

Pandemia. Brote. Vacuna. La Peste. Although you may find these terms in a glossary about the Covid-19 outbreak, that’s not what these words actually refer to. Instead, they’re options on the menu at a Mexican taqueria called “Tacovid: Sabor Viral”, a perhaps surprisingly very successful Coronavirus-themed restaurant.

Although to many having a Covid-themed taqueria may seem morbid or disrespectful or perhaps gross – I mean who wants to order a plague taco? – the taqueria is making light of a very serious situation with humor. Something that several other businesses have done since the pandemic began.

”Tacovid: Sabor Viral” is the Mexican taqueria going viral – pun intended – for its Covid-themed menu.

Ok…virus-themed tacos don’t exactly sound appetizing. Especially, as we’re still in the midst of a very real pandemic. But one 23-year-old man in the Mexican city of León, who was forced to close down his dance studio because of Coronavirus, is counting on a Covid-themed restaurant – and so far he’s been surprised by its success.

Brandon Velázquez converted his dance academy into a taquería at the end of July, and given that Mexico and the rest of the world was – and is – in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic decided to call it Tacovid Sabor Viral.

“I had to close my dance academy during the pandemic [but] then an opportunity arose to return to the same place, however, people still did not go out for fear of getting infected.” he told the newspaper El Universal.

“I had always wanted to open a taqueria and, at the end of July, the opportunity to do so occurred. It was how I took advantage of the moment to create this business with a coronavirus theme,” he added.

Items on the menu are named after – you guessed it – the Coronavirus and don’t sound like anything you’d willfully choose to order.

The young entrepreneur detailed the name of each dish, taking full advantage of the Coronavirus theme.

“We have around 12 different dishes, among them are the ‘Tacovid’; we have ‘Forty’, ‘Quesanitizing’, ‘Pandemic’, ‘Outbreak’, and many others. The price varies depending on the dish you order,” he told El Universal.

In addition to themed dishes, the servers also fit the Coronavirus-theme.

When the pandemic hit Mexico, the government urged Mexicans to observe “su sana distancia” and the now common mascot – Susana Distancia – was born.

“In the restaurant, a waitress dressed as a nurse with the name of ‘Susana’ takes orders and works the tables, referring to the healthy distance campaign that was implemented as a precautionary measure,” he says.

To his surprise – and honestly mine as well – the taqueria has been very successful.

Brandon told El Universal that he’s been pleasantly surprised by the support he has received from customers. “I’m surprised because we have had really good sales, despite the circumstances, we have had a lot of support by the community and we’ve already expanded to have two locations.”

“Customers are funny about the theme we are using in the business, and they are delighted with the dishes we are offering. They enjoy it and have a good time,” added Brandon.

Things are looking so good for Brandon and his Covid-themed taqueria, that he’s looking to expand the food business and add new dishes to the menu. “There is always the idea of new names for other dishes that we want to include in the menu.”

Brandon also said that he’s looking to build out a business model so the restaurant could expand to other parts of the country as a franchise.

Apparently, people are really into Covid-themed foods, as this isn’t the first place that a shop as cashed in on the pandemic. Back in April, a panadería was selling out of Covid-themed baked goods so quickly, they couldn’t keep the shelves stocked.

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