When I was a pre-teen I asked my cousins in Monterrey, Mexico, “Where do they get their Tacos?” They did not know what a taco was. They looked at each other trying to get a translator for their gringo cousin. I finally gave up trying to explain the concept. Tacos and fast food, I guess, were not as all over Mexico in the 1960s as they were in the US– fast food had not yet become the thing. I remember being happy for that. (Pushcarts full of the best tamales and ice cream were everywhere. I liked it) Later, after a few years, I returned to Monterrey and was met by KFC, Taco Bell, and other corps littering the streets much as they do in the US. You see, up through the 60s, Mexico had been a big place with no real stereotypical mono-culture. Yet today, the taco is everywhere in Mexico not due to Mexican culture but due to the spread of fast food industries and corporate globalization. Anyway, I liked the pre-fast food Mexico better.
I ran across this interesting piece of knowledge about the origin of the word “taco,” in Smithsonian Magazine in an interview with Jeffrey M. Pilcher, professor of history at the University of Minnesota.
“The origins of the taco are really unknown. My theory is that it dates from the 18th century and the silver mines in Mexico, because in those mines the word “taco” referred to the little charges they would use to excavate the ore. These were pieces of paper that they would wrap around gunpowder and insert into the holes they carved in the rock face. When you think about it, a chicken taquito with a good hot sauce is really a lot like a stick of dynamite. The first references [to the taco] in any sort of archive or dictionary come from the end of the 19th century. And one of the first types of tacos described is called tacos de minero—miner’s tacos. So the taco is not necessarily this age-old cultural expression; it’s not a food that goes back to time immemorial.”
Back in the 60s as a US kid, what I recall back then was that there were no entities that we would call a “Taco stand” in Monterrey. Mi primos hadn’t even heard the word taco until I mentioned the word taco. It wasn’t a part of the culture at least to my family. The taco was in other places in Mexico but not truly all over Mexico, you might say. We would have to wait for fast food to make its way into Mexican culture for tacos to be everywhere in Monterrey. Taco Bell first set up a restaurant in Mexico in 1992.
Oh, one more thing. What is tossing around “taco stand” as a negative all about? Could it be that a corner vendor is abhorrent to other variants of capitalism? Could it be that the self-employed person becomes useless to the man, that potential laborers become no longer available as a resource, and that the worker becomes, essentially, the competition? Could it be that it is not Mexican culture or “taco stands” but entrepreneurship that is feared by the conservative? Yes, we do have to take what conservatives say and translate it into English. Not an easy job. Most of the time they are speaking a coded language thought up in a think tank and then made into facebook memes. I propose that it isn’t Mexico and taco stands but fear of certain industries’ loss of grip on cheap labor.
Could it then be that the words “taco stand” really could mean fear of the loss of cheap labor? You see, adherents to the free market model project onto the people the ideas of “free market for the corporation” and not of “free market for the individual.” Nor is corporate free market free. It does, however, represent a return to 19th-century capitalism where few fat cats were in control of every aspect of the lives of labor in a type of American feudalism. In the 20th-century, due to progressive changes, more and more folks did become able to buy their own property, build their own businesses, and become free from the shackles of feudalism. That was a big improvement. So, is the term “taco stand” one form of capitalism’s battle cry against another? Today, that reality of a 20th-century type American dream has been taken down a notch, tweaked a little, then turned on its head to serve the interests of big business as even college students have found that they have bought into indentured servitude through debt.
By bypassing the prescribed route and making ones’ own road to independent living (code word: Taco stand) these types of deplorable activities become contrary to what the free market corporate structure conservatives have been promoting since as far back as the 70s–cooperate controlled America. Think about it. Large numbers of people creating businesses like taco stands, if it were to become a huge-trend chunk of American culture that would hurt; that would be something to watch as the corporate entities like the food chains lose business to tastier and healthier vendors.
Taco stands? We should be fearful of people with their own businesses. Right?