This past spring, I had the privilege of having one of my facebook posts featured in an honors thesis. Believe it or not, it came from a rant I had about tacos in January 2016.
Here’s the post in question:
“Random thoughts: This whole Austin ‘taco culture’ thing. Appropriation? One time I heard Austin called ‘the birthplace of breakfast tacos.’ Ummm not quite, unless you don’t think breakfast tacos existed until they got to Austin. Which they did… That’s as bad as saying the world didn’t exist before I was born. I like Torchy’s as much as the next person, but tacos are not some new hip thing. They are literally tacos.
One thing I read said ‘barbacoa got added to the dictionary, we do love our Chipotle.’ Eegads. I am so serious.”
While I have no idea why I used the word “eegads,” I still stand by this post. Of course, at the time, I was thinking about it as a commentary about breakfast food, not something that belonged in academia.
(A little background: tacos are breakfast food in San Antonio. This concept is relatively new to Austin. When my parents lived in Austin, as recently as the eighties, breakfast tacos were still not a *thing* there. My experience from living in both cities was that when I lived in San Antonio, breakfast tacos were normal. A very typical breakfast food, though people from outside SA thought it was weird. When I moved to Austin, my perception was that breakfast tacos were viewed as trendy.)
In late February 2016, in response to a super awkward and problematic claim that Austin was the birthplace of breakfast tacos (no, no, no) reports such as this article and others like it started cropping up.
On February 27, Austin Mayor Steve Adler declared a “taco war” on San Antonio. This was met with heavy criticism for many reasons, though the one that stuck with me most was from my father.
He said that after decades of Austin ignoring its Hispanic population, after years of maltreatment to the Mexican-American community in the city, that it was not okay for the city to now turn around and take credit. That’s not how it works.
And that’s heart of the problem of appropriation. You can’t just take someone’s creation, claim it as your own, and all the while be saying “I like this, but not you.” If the dominant culture is going to take over a marginalized culture’s food, music, garments, or history, but continue to oppress them, where does that leave us? These are my thoughts, what are yours?
Note: The honors thesis in question was presented in May of 2016 by a very talented friend of mine. I was honored (pun) to be included.