Culture

Meet The Gracious Family That The Creator Of Taco Bell Ripped Off

Any foodie with a Netflix subscription is at least aware of the Netflix original docu-series “Ugly Delicious.” Each episode takes a cultural look at staple foods like pizza, fried rice, and tacos. Hosted by David Chang, each episode is essentially a visual essay of a taken-for-granted cuisine. The team travels to the birthplace of the food and sees how it’s evolved in its different iterations around the world.

During the taco episode, the all-male team travels to San Bernadino, California to Holland to Mexico to understand what makes a good taco. They even go to Taco Bell and the restaurant that “inspired” the franchise.

Along for the ride is taco expert and Mexican-American foodie Gustavo Arellano.

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We first see the team driving around Los Angeles past rows of food trucks. When asked what are the tell-tale signs that set apart one taco truck from another, Arellano gives these non-Spanish speakers these pro tips:

  1. Find a menu that includes words you’ve never seen before. That means the food will be regional and not mass-produced.
  2. Go where the “salsa game is strong.” Especially if they’re just giving away roasted serrano peppers.
  3. Look for the homemade tortillas. If you see a bag of mass-produced tortillas in sight, walk away.

Chang is a New Yorker. He didn’t get tacos until he rolled through Los Angeles.

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“This is definitely much better than the ‘Taco Night in America’ type of taco,” he proclaims after a single taco de camarones. That’s because Mexicanos run LA taquerías, Mr. Chang.

Eventually, Arellano takes us to ground zero of the Taco Bell franchise.

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After a quick trip to Taco Bell, Arellano, who authored “Taco USA,” takes viewers to the eatery that inspired a now global fast food franchise meant to represent Mexican cuisine.

Mitla Cafe’s home is San Bernardino, a community born out of being a road-side stop off Route 66.

The restaurant has been around since 1937.

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At this point, the country is just edging out of the Great Depression. San Bernardino was heavily segregated. Mexicans were only allowed to live on the west side of the city, where Mitla first opened its doors.

The real story of Taco Bell begins with Lucia Rodriguez.

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She had emigrated from Tepatitlán, México to California and brought her recipes with her. According to her grandson and now the owner of Mitla, Michael Montaño, “These are her recipes. Those are the things that were available to her: ground beef, cheddar cheese, tomatoes, and iceberg lettuce. She made it work.”

True to its original menu, Mitla has been a home base for immigrant assimilation.

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“When my grandmother opened the restaurant, she wanted to have American style food on the menu,” Montaño tells “Ugly Delicious.” “The first item on the menu is a T-bone steak.”

Mitla became a home base for the Mexican community to gather and strengthen. The story goes that the local activists that would take up booths at Mitla went on to form the Mexican Chamber of Commerce.

Taco Bell founder, Glen Bell, saw an opportunity and decided to steal the recipe.

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Bell would eat at Mitla every day after work, trying to deconstruct their taco. According to Gustavo Arellano’s book Taco USA, Bell befriended the staff and family at Mitla Cafe, eventually making his way into the kitchen to learn the family secrets.

Glen Bell was making hamburgers across the street, but the original McDonalds was creating competition.

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This guy was just looking for a way to make money. He knew how to make a hamburger, but McDonald’s was creating too much competition.

Bell opened up the first Taco Bell in Downey in 1962.

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With the start of a fast food franchise that would normalize and make Mexican food mainstream, Taco Bell was born. Now, the Montaño family recipes are met with criticism from Latinos who don’t know the story–that they serve fake Mexican food.

The original flavors, story, and heritage still reside in San Bernadino with the Montaño family.

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We are so glad Arellano asked Montaño, “How do you feel that your family’s recipe—your heritage—was taken by Glen Bell and turned into a multi-billion dollar empire?”

Montaño is ultimately proud that his family recipes have forever given America a little more flavor.

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“We don’t talk about it in the terms of what could have been or what he did to us or anything like that,” he tells Arellano. “It’s more of like look at our connection to the history of food in this country. When you hear stories of salsa being the No. 1 condiment, or that tortillas are right there next to the wonder bread … that’s what the country’s about.”

“That’s what the immigrant story is about—is assimilating but not only assimilating to the culture, but having that predominant culture assimilate some of your beliefs, some of what you do well and make it part of the general population.”

READ: Taco Bell Is Opening A Resort In Palm Springs And People Have Some Serious And Valid Questions

Many Mexicans Are Calling Out Fragile Masculinity As Some Continue To Protest A Controversial Zapata Painting

Culture

Many Mexicans Are Calling Out Fragile Masculinity As Some Continue To Protest A Controversial Zapata Painting

Jorge Rivera-Pineda / Mexico Broadcasters

It is no secret that Mexican society is often affected by displays of homophobia. Even though there have been great advances such as the legalization of same-sex marriage in some states, the largely Catholic country is home of opinion leaders who are conservative and whose masculinity seems to be constantly threatened by anything that doesn’t spell out “straight.”

Added to this, Mexican political discourse is anchored in a solemn approach to institutions and the myths of the wars of Independence and Revolution, the two historical moments that have defined Mexican political life and foundational narratives for the past 200 years. So a recent painting hosted at the Palacio de Bellas Artes, perhaps the most iconic building dedicated to the arts in the Latin American country, made conservatives poner el grito en el cielo, as it dares to reimagine one of Mexico’s revolutionary leaders as a queer character.

For many, Zapata is akin to a deity and the image of heroic masculinity. The painting is, however, incendiary for exactly that reason, because it challenges notions of sex and gender in a day and age were some parts of Mexico are progressive while others remain under the dark clouds of discrimination and segregation of LGBTQ communities.

So this is the 2014 painting “The Revolution” by Fabian Chairez. 

The painting depicts a male figure who resembles the revolutionary hero Emiliano Zapata, a cornerstone of Mexico’s Revolutionary War. Zapata was beloved by indigenous populations and gente de campo who believed that other revolutionaries were forgetting the most marginalised sectors of society.

But there is a twist: here, Zapata is naked, wearing heels and being totally gender-non-conforming as he rides a voluptuous horse. Chairez told Reuters: “I use these elements like the sombrero and horse and create a proposal that shows other realities, other ways of representing masculinity.”

Definitely not your usual depiction of the times, but surely a piece that is confronting in the best possible way. The painting was chosen as part of an exhibition on the revolutionary hero, but things got nasty. 

Zapata’s grandchildren have spoken out against the painting in the most homophic way, and things got bloody.

Zapata’s family demanded that the painting be taken off the exhibition because it allegedly “tainted” the public image of their grandfather. Let’s take a minute here and think about this: it is actually the worst possible kind of homophobia, as it implies that being queer is wrong and that it would be a blemish on Zapata’s legacy.

There were protests inside Bellas Artes and university students defending the work and freedom of expression actually got into a fistfight with farmers who stormed Bellas Artes chanting homophobic slurs and threatening to burn the painting in a gross display of toxic masculinity and an Inquisitorial outlook on life and art.

As reported by CE Noticias Financieras, Federico Ovalle, leader of the Independent Central Of Agricultural and Peasant Workers, said: “The picture denigrates the personality and trajectory of the general and it seems to us that presenting this figure is grotesque, of contempt and contempt of the peasants of the country.”

Luis Vargas Santiago, curator of the exhibit ‘Emiliano Zapata after Zapata’, told Reuters: “Of course it’s fine if they don’t like the painting, they can criticize the exhibition, but to seek to censor freedom of expression, that’s different.” 

The painting can stay, but it is being censored anyway.

As reported by Agence France Presse, the authorities decided that the painting can stay, but with a caveat: “But the Mexican Revolutionary hero’s family will be allowed to place a text beside it stating their strong objections to the work, which shows Zapata draped suggestively over a white horse with a giant erection.”

And the image will also be sort of hidden from public view (which, to be honest, might only increase the influx of visitors to the exhibition).

As AFP continues: “Under the deal, brokered by the Mexican culture ministry, the painting by artist Fabian Chairez will also be removed from promotional materials for the exhibition, “Emiliano. Zapata After Zapata,” which opened last month at the Palace of Fine Arts in Mexico City.”

Even Mexican president AMLO, who has declared his admiration for the revolutionary hero, got involved, ordering his culture minister to get involved. 

So was Emiliano Zapata a queer revolutionary hero? Perhaps, but that is not the point!

For years, historians have tried to get a glimpse into the man who was Emiliano Zapata. Some claim that his overt displays of macho masculinity were perhaps a way to silence any rumors regarding his sexuality. But the point is that it does not matter, or it should not matter, for any other reason that historical accuracy. And it isn’t anyone’s business, is it?

One Of Mexico’s Most Important Former Officials Was Just Arrested For Allegedly Taking Bribes From El Chapo’s Sinaloa Cartel

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One Of Mexico’s Most Important Former Officials Was Just Arrested For Allegedly Taking Bribes From El Chapo’s Sinaloa Cartel

Celia Lucero

For years, conservative minded people in Mexico have defended the full frontal war that then president Felipe Calderón Hinojosa waged against the drug cartels from 2006 to 2012. This war continues today and has seen almost half a million people killed, countless abuses, displacement of whole populations and a diminished image of Mexico locally and abroad. Those who align with the supposedly incorruptible stance that Calderón took against organized crime claim that he was just doing a job that previous presidents had failed to do.

During this period government forces fought mainly Los Zetas and the Gulf Cartel, as well as new organizations in the state of Michoacan such as La Familia Michoacana and Los Caballeros Templarios. Strangely, the Sinaloa Cartel was left largely untouched and even expanded its operations during the Calderón presidency.

A recent high profile arrest could shed some light on why the war against the cartels has developed in a way that up until recently seemed to benefit the powerful organization built by Joaquín El Chapo Guzmán and his compadre Mayo Zambada. As The Guardian reports: “A 2010 analysis of crime figures by NPR found that only 12% of people arrested, prosecuted or sentenced for drug, organised crime and weapons offences had ties to the Sinaloa cartel”. This is peculiar, to say the least. 

Genaro García Luna, Calderón’s security chief, was arrested in the United States.

The charges emanated from the recent trial in which El Chapo Guzmán was sentenced to life in prison. The authority  claims that García Luna, who was infamous for the many human rights abuses that the State’s forces committed under his command, received generous bribes from the Sinaloa Cartel to warranty that their operations would not be threatened.

If true, this would be corruption at the highest levels of government and would justify fears that Mexico has become a Narco-State in which global trafficking networks are the de facto decision makers. He led Mexico’s federal investigation agency from 2001 to 2005. From 2006 to 2012 he served under Calderón as secretary of public security. So yes, cannot get more powerful than that! 

García Luna was the architect of the federal police, a force which coordinated with the Army and the Navy to fight the cartels.

If the allegations are true, it could mean that the whole State apparatus was created with a hidden agenda in mind, which would put the legitimacy of the institutional framework of Mexico during the FCH presidency on serious scrutiny. After the former security chief was arrested,  US attorney Richard P Donoghue said: “García Luna stands accused of taking millions of dollars in bribes from ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán’s Sinaloa cartel while he controlled Mexico’s federal police force and was responsible for ensuring public safety in Mexico. Today’s arrest demonstrates our resolve to bring to justice those who help cartels inflict devastating harm on the United States and Mexico, regardless of the positions they held while committing their crimes.”

Of course, Calderón was quick to say he wasn’t aware of this happening

Former president Calderón, who is attempting to create his own political party alongside his wife Margarita Zavala, took to Twitter to say he was unaware of García Luna’s dishonest ways.

If this is the case then it would amount to the worst kind of incompetence on Calderón’s part. If he was indeed aware, however, well it would spell political and possibly legal disaster for him. Either way, this arrest could probably mean the end of Calderón’s political life.

By the way, he once said that nothing happens without the president knowing about it. The accusations are damning.

As summarized by The Guardian: “According to the indictment, cartel bagmen twice delivered briefcases containing millions of dollars to García Luna. In 2018, former cartel member Jesús Zambada testified at the trial of the Sinaloa kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán that he personally made at least $6m in hidden payments to García Luna, on behalf of his older brother, cartel boss Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada. In exchange for the bribes, the Sinaloa cartel obtained safe passage for its drug shipments, inside details of police investigations, and information about rival drug cartels, the indictment said.”

We wonder how many heads will fall as the ugly truths revealed during El Chapo’s trial keep resurfacing. 

Remember the Netflix show El Chapo? Well, it sort of showed these acts of corruption in an eerily similar way.

Credit: Netflix

As more information surfaces after the now legendary El Chapo trial, we stand in awe at how accurate the Netflix-Telemundo show was. In it, Calderón’s government strikes a deal with the Sinaloa Cartel through a shady political operative who had García Luna’s exact same job? Coincidence or was it un secreto a voces?