5 Times Culture Vultures Tried to Claim Latino Food as Their Own


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The culture vultures seem to take particular pride in “discovering” the foods we’ve been on for decades and even centuries – like the whole Nopal debacle. Like, we get it, our food is delicious and while I’m not opposed to non-Latinos enjoying or preparing our dishes, there is a more insidious side effect of creating “food trends” grounded in the traditions of disenfranchised and lower income communities – the primary example being the rising prices of dietary staples like avocados or the “gourmet” versions of our foods that take precious dollars from Latino run businesses.

There is also the issue of credit, every recipe represents decades of ancestral knowledge and I don’t have to tell you that every region and municipality has its own highly guarded and beloved specialties. So where is the line between appreciating and profiting off a culture without any type of regard for the very people who shape the culture? The fact is that Latinos are treated like second-class citizens and yet our food (which is already devalued and criminalized when cooked and sold on the street by Latinos) is fine. Other than the nopales “food trend” incident, here are five other times the culture vultures came for Latino food.

Tortillas

Last year two Portland women went to Puerto Nuevo, Mexico with the intent of “discovering” the best recipe for tortilla masa. They came back with what they’d learned and opened their own burrito cart on Cesar Chavez Blvd, okay cool.  But things took a turn when they actually admitted to spying on the women who did not want to share their recipe or preparation method. “They wouldn’t tell us too much about technique, but we were peeking into the windows of every kitchen, totally fascinated by how easy they made it look.” Who does that?! This threw gas on the dumpster fire that is the relationship white Portlanders have with their fellow residents of color. The women were accused of stealing a cultural tradition that was not theirs to profit from and the business eventually flopped.

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