NO To New Nuclear Weapons... NO To New Nuclear Targets... NO To New Pretexts For Nuclear War... NO To Nuclear Testing...
NO To Star Wars... NO To Weapons In Space...
NOTo All Types Of Weapons, War & War Culture...
We have only one WORLD yet! If we destroy it, where else will we go?
Mission of the Lightmillennium.Org
About the Lightmillennium.Org
Events of the Lightmillennium.Org
Supporters of the Light Millennium
The Light Millennium TV Programs
Archive of the Lightmillennium.Org
Participants of the Lightmillennium.Org
BoD, A.Board and Volunteer Rep. of the Lightmillennium.Org
Contact information of the Lightmillennium.Org
YES For The Global Peace Movement, YES Loving & Caring Each Other, YES Greatness in Humanity, YES Saving Our Unique Mother Earth,
YES Great Dreams For Better Tomorrows, YES Emerging Positive Global Energy, YES National and Global Transparency, and YES Lighting Our Souls & Minds.

Light Millennium #15 issue, May 2005

Mexicans in the U.S.A:
Mexican-American / Tex-Mex Cuisine

by Etienne MARTINEZ

When studying Mexicans in the United States it is relatively easy to find many authors that deal with the issues of politics, discrimination, economic struggle and other very serious topics that immigrants often experience. As inescapable as those issues are for the people who have to deal with them, they are almost always too somber to discuss or deal with during those lighter moments in life. Moments where nothing matters but the most important things in life such as God and family, and times when life just seems to go on regardless of what is happening in Washington D.C. For example it would be difficult to imagine Uncle Pedro talking about his frustrations with his racist boss at a family Christmas get-together, or the Gonzalez family thanking God for the Republican Party for lowering taxes again during family prayer time or the Sanchez sisters fighting over whose bilingual education teacher is doing a better job at teaching them English in school. It can not be stressed enough how important all of these issues are but my goal in this research is to capture and bring to light probably the one thing that in many ways connects all Mexican-Americans together, the one of a few things that is worthy of discussion at a Christmas party, and thanked for in a prayer or argued over at a chili contest and it isn't found in the sociology or history sections in the library, instead one would have to turn to the culinary section to find a book that deals with this subject; Mexican-American cuisine.

Many people often think that they can go to a local Taco Bell to enjoy some traditional Mexican food, they are almost unforgivably mistaken. Taco Bell is actually the place one can go to enjoy Mexican-American or Tex-Mex food (or at least an attempt at it). There is a big difference between Mexican cuisine and Tex-Mex cuisine, the terms Tex-Mex and Mexican American may be used interchangeably when speaking of food and will later be explained. They are closely related, but Tex-Mex cuisine has been adapted for the Anglo taste while Mexican food has almost no influence from the United States. Proponents of Mexican food take great strides to distinguish their cuisine from what is more popular in the United States, they even put it down. Mexican Cooking For Dummies actually says "Although it's one of the world's most beloved cuisines, Mexican food has been severely misunderstood and sloppily translated north of the border." [1]   Mexico has every right to be proud of it's cuisine, but it is probably its own insistence on not being associated with the culinary legacy it has left north of the border that has strengthened the divisions between the two cuisines the most.  Just as Mexican food has its defenders so does Tex-Mex cuisine as well. Miller states that "The History of the U.S.-Mexican border area makes it one of the world's great culinary regions, similar to the great feeding grounds of the oceans, where currents of different temperatures meet. Just as this mixture produces waters teeming with all kinds of creatures, so the migrations of different peoples to the border area have created a region of rich cultural exchange, between Indians and Spanish, vaqueros and cowboys, and Hispanics and Anglos." [2] Few could sum it up as precisely and poetically as Miller does.

According to the Tex-Mex cookbook by Rob Walsh, this type of food is genuinely an American phenomenon, but has been called Mexican food until thirty years ago when an article in the Mexico City News said "It was a mistake to come to Mexico and not try the local cuisine. It is not the Tex-Mex cooking one is used to getting in the United States." [3] As if it wasn't enough Tex-Mex cuisine wasn't receiving the recognition it deserved as a discernable style of food; when it finally does get attention, it's done in a condescending way.

No one is quite sure why the term Tex-Mex is used when in fact dishes that originated in other areas such as San Francisco's steak burritos, San Diego's fish tacos and Tucson's chimichangas are all in the same category. The one thing that is for sure is that these dishes are definitely not Mexican and they fall in the category of Mexican-American food. The Term Tex-Mex is used to represent many different aspects of Mexican-American culture such as music, fashion or clothing. The first documented use of the term originated when it was used for the Texas and Mexican railway, which carried passengers from Laredo to Corpus Christi beginning in 1875. It is likely that the term was used by the locals even before the railway first penned it. [4]

Tex-Mex began to reach the Midwest when a San Antonio Chili stand showcased its chili for the Chicago World's Fair in 1893. By 1910 chili con carne could be bought in cans in Oklahoma and St. Louis, today chili is enjoyed all over the United States. In the early 1900s Tamales, Mexican corn flour patties were more popular in Chicago than hamburgers. [5] As widespread as Tex-Mex cuisine is in the United States, it is as much regional as it is American. It is intimately involved with the border lands where it has the reputation of being the best. A perfect example to illustrate this is the commercial for a particular salsa dip that pokes fun at its competitors when they stress the fact that the other salsas are made in the north east. The announcer says that such and such brand is made in New York City and all the cows in the field raise there heads and all together in great horror say "Neeeeeew York City!?" The implication is that even cows know better than to buy salsa dips that aren't made in Texas. It is a funny commercial but it goes to show that for the best Tex-Mex one must head south west.

Before understanding Tex-Mex cuisine one must look at the origins and history of the food first. It is very closely tied to the history of the people who take pride in it. Some would even argue that the food of a people can tell more about their culture than many other measurements. For one thing, Tex-Mex cuisine reflects the historical relationship between Mexican-Americans and the United States. In the article World View, Madsen says "The Mexican-American thinks of himself as both a citizen of the United States and a member of La Raza." [6] Just as Mexican-Americans see themselves as having a dual nature, Walsh quotes Waverly, a Chicago food writer who said, "Tex-Mex food might be described as native foreign food, contradictory though that term may seem. It is native for it does not exist elsewhere; it was born on this soil. But it is foreign in that its inspiration came from an alien cuisine; that it has never merged into the mainstream of American cooking and remains alive almost solely in the region where it originated." [7] One can take the quote by Waverly and replace the words Tex-Mex food with Mexican Americans and the description would be surprisingly true. It is unlikely that this food expert was aware of or even intended to speak to the reality of the Mexican-American people, however, was obliviously able to sum it up concisely, but in the context of Tex-Mex cuisine. Miller takes it to the next level when he says, "These people-home cooks, famous chefs, teachers, sheepherders, artists and tortilla makers- define their cuisine as it defines them. The food and the people are one and the same." [8]

For many years the border lands were distinguishable only on maps. People, business, culture and food crossed the two countries with ease. According to Meier and Feliciano Rivera, "Anyone traveling from Mexico into the United States in 1848 would have found it difficult to know when he had crossed the frontier unless border guards and signs marked the boundary." [9] In many ways one can look at these border lands as buffer zones that share many things in common. Today, when thinking about cowboys, Americans think of them as part of the south-west; when thinking of vaqueros, (Spanish word for cowboys) Mexicans think of them as something from the north. When thinking of cattle ranches, Americans think of the south-west, when Mexicans think of cattle ranches they think of the north. Even what we know as Tex-Mex music, Mexicans call it Musica Nortena (northern music). When thinking about Tex-Mex cuisine, Americans think of south-western food, while again Mexicans think of it as food from the north. This is another example of how Tex-Mex cuisine is very much a part of Mexican-American culture as it is intimately related to border land life.

When reading the biographies by Mexican-American authors, many times one discovers numerous nostalgic references to home cooking. Those sweet memories bring them back to a time when food was prepared with care, ingredients were locally grown and harvested, domesticated livestock were often butchered in the backyard and dinner was a sacred time of family unity. Socorro Felix Delgado, a Mexican-American woman who lived in Tucson, nostalgically recalls how her mother, Carlota, used to tell her how she "made tortillas early in the morning when she was very young." She made burritos and they [her and her brothers] took them to school for lunch!" [10] These simple dishes are the staples of today's Tex-Mex cuisine.  Carlota's childhood memories are reflective of the experience of thousands of Mexican Americans in the early 1900s. Here one can see the particular importance of tortillas in Tex-Mex food. It is the key component that allows food to be portable and it is that convenience and practicality that helps make the tortilla, flour or corn wrap, an integral part of the Tex-Mex cuisine. There is no escaping the fact that the food of a people tells a lot about their values, culture and history.

According to the Jamisons, "The Spanish came to the New World in search of gold and glory and found Mexican food instead." [11] One of the most delicious and accidental discoveries of the Spaniards was the Native American cooking. Much of the fundamentals of Mexican cooking as it is known today can be traced back to 1519 to the Aztecs that lived in the central valley of Mexico. The Spaniards encountered foods such as tamales with all kinds of fillings, corn tortillas, different sea food dishes, turkey dishes, twelve different kinds of beans and even chocolate drinks. The most alien to the Spaniards and authentic to today's Mexican and Tex-Mex cuisine was the variety and uses of chilis. Corn was the essential part of the Aztec diet, but they also grew and consumed tomatoes, avocados, squash, cacti, and many other fruits. For meat, the Aztecs ate Turkey, ducks, dogs and other game. The Spaniards introduced beef, lamb, milk, cheese, butter, lard, pork, wheat, rice and many other European necessities. As the conquerors moved north and away from the land of the Aztecs and Mayas, they found that the native people of today's American south-west were raising the vital staple of today's Tex-Mex cuisine consisting of corn and beans. However, due to the dryer weather in the area, the variety of foods was not as bountiful as in the south. When the United States conquered half of Mexico as a result of the Mexican-American war it gradually lead to the polarization of the Tex-Mex cuisine from its Mexican roots, making it the "native foreign" favorite of the southwest while at the same time the oldest regional cuisine in this country. [12]

Tex-Mex cuisine is still evolving in the south-west and is by no means stagnant. In fact there seems to be a revival and a new acceptance of the Tex-Mex tradition. Many restaurants that shut down after the cultural food bashing from Mexico, disowning them from the Mexican cuisine tradition, have reopened and are now claiming to have invented Tex-Mex cuisine [13] Originally these restaurants were claiming to sell Mexican cuisine, therefore to have the country for which they claimed their recipes were from completely reject them, initially seemed to be devastating, but instead has been a liberating experience. Now these restaurants are free to experiment and cater to the tastes of Mexican-American/Chicano and Anglo consumers.

What would an analysis on Tex-Mex cuisine be if it did not describe at least some of the most popular Tex-Mex dishes? A Botanas is a huge platter of nachos smothered with meat and guacamole and served with tortillas and salsa on the side. This dish is meant for the enjoyment of several people. Burritos are, in their simplest form, large tortilla wraps with different kinds of fillings. The filling can be as varied as the restaurants and people who enjoy them. Chalupas are made when one fries flat tortillas and tops them with beans and cheeses. This dish is typically served with a variety of meat-less toppings. Chilaquiles are basically scraps of tortilla chips cooked in a savory sauce with meat and cheese. Chimichangas have an interesting legend to them, it is said that it was invented when someone accidentally dropped a burrito in to a deep fryer and the result was a delicious treat. They weren't sure of what to name it, so they called it a "whatchamacalllit." The word Chimichanga is supposed to be Spanish word for it. Enchiladas are corn tortillas that are made soft in hot oil and then cooked in chile sauce. An Enchurito is the combination of a burrito and enchilada. It is a burrito covered with chile sauce and eaten with a fork and knife. Envueltos are tortillas wrapped around a filling and fried or cooked in a sauce. Fajitas are a little complicated because they refer to grilled skirt steak that is served with flour tortillas but Anglos have taken it to mean a grilled steak or chicken in a soft flour taco. Frijoles Refritos are cooked beans mashed in hot oil. Gorditas are made when one takes a piece of tortilla dough and pats it into a circle. It is then put in to hot oil where it puffs up and is then opened and filled with beans, shredded meat, and cheese. Migas are breadcrumbs and tortilla scraps fried and mixed with scrambled eggs; it is a popular breakfast dish. Nachos are tortilla chips topped with cheese and jalapeno slices and broiled until the cheese melts. Panchos are the same as nachos but with refried beans spread on before the cheese and jalapenos. Quesadillas are flour tortillas that are sandwiched over cheese and then grilled to melt the cheese. Tacos are simply corn or flour tortillas wrapped around a filling. They are the main dish of any Taco-Bell. Tamales are made by taking tortilla dough mixed with lard and seasonings and then spreading it onto a corn husk and filling it with a meat. The main ingredient in all of these dishes is the tortilla, which is the oldest Mesoamerican food staple that is as commonly used today as it was in pre-Colombian time. [14]

The saying goes that: "the way into a person's heart is through their stomach." For the purposes of this research it can be said that the way into a Mexican-American's home is through their kitchen. One might be surprised to find so much information about Mexican-Americans in cookbooks, but it make a lot of sense since the food of a people is in many ways the link between history and the present, country and region, and passion and spice. Tex-Mex cuisine has taken its place as a separate and different type of cuisine from Mexican food. It is very American and very borderland at the same time. Tex-Mex cuisine is definitely one of the greatest Mexican-American contributions to kitchens everywhere this side of the Rio Grand.

_ . _


Feniger, Susane; Seigel, Helene; Miliken Sue, Mary. Mexican Cooking For Dummies. Scranton, Courage Books, 2002.
Jamison Alters, Cheryl; Jamison, Bill. The Border Cookbook: Authentic Home Cooking of the American Southwest and Northern Mexico. Boston, The Harvard Common Press, 1995.
Madsen, William. The Changing Mexican American: World View. El Paso, Rinehart and Winston Inc., 1964.
Martin Preciado, Patricia. An Oral History of Mexican-American Women: Songs My Mother Sang To Me. Tucson, the University of Arizona Press, 1992.
Meier S, Matt; Rivera Feliciano. The Chicanos: A History of Mexican Americans. New York, Hill and Wang, 1972.
Walsh, Rob. The Tex-Mex Cookbook. New York, Broadway Books, 2004.


[1] Susan Feniger, Helene Siegel, and Mary Sue Miliken, Mexican Cooking for Dummies (Scranton, Courage Books, 2002), 2

[2] Cheryl Alters Jamison and Bill Jamison, The Border Cookbook: Authentic Home Cooking of the American Southwest and Northern Mexico (Boston, The Harvard Common Press, 1995), IX

[3] Rob Walsh, The Tex-Mex Cookbook (New York, Broadway Books,2004), XVI

[4] Rob Walsh, The Tex-Mex Cookbook (New York, Broadway Books,2004), XVIII

[5] Rob Walsh, The Tex-Mex Cookbook (New York, Broadway Books,2004), XVII

[6] William Madsen, The Changing Mexican American: World View (Holt, Rinehart and Winston Inc.,1964), 169

[7] Rob Walsh, The Tex-Mex Cookbook (New York, Broadway Books,2004), XVII

[8] Cheryl Alters Jamison and Bill Jamison, Foreword by Mark Miller The Border Cookbook: Authentic Home Cooking of the American Southwest and Northern Mexico (Boston, The Harvard Common Press, 1995), XI

[9] Matt S. Meier and Feliciano Rivera, The Chicanos: A History of Mexican American (New York, Hill and Wang, 1972), 115

[10] Patricia Preciado Martin, An Oral History of Mexican-American Women: Songs My Mother Sang To Me (Tucson, The University of Arizona Press, 1992), 59

[11] Cheryl Alters Jamison and Bill Jamison, The Border Cookbook: Authentic Home Cooking of the American Southwest and Northern Mexico (Boston, The Harvard Common Press, 1995),.5

[12] [12] Cheryl Alters Jamison and Bill Jamison, The Border Cookbook: Authentic Home Cooking of the American Southwest and Northern Mexico (Boston, The Harvard Common Press, 1995),.5-6

[13] Rob Walsh, The Tex-Mex Cookbook (New York, Broadway Books,2004), 2

[14] Rob Walsh, The Tex-Mex Cookbook (New York, Broadway Books,2004), 2-3

_ . _

Light Millennium #15 issue, May 2005
- http://www.lightmillennium.org

Mission of the Lightmillennium.Org
About the Lightmillennium.Org
Events of the Lightmillennium.Org
Supporters of the Light Millennium
The Light Millennium TV Programs
Archive of the Lightmillennium.Org
Participants of the Lightmillennium.Org
BoD, A.Board and Volunteer Rep. of the Lightmillennium.Org
Contact information of the Lightmillennium.Org
If you wish to receive The Light Millennium's media releases, announcements or about future events
or to be part of the Light Millennium,
please send us an e-mail to:
YES For The Global Peace Movement, YES To Loving & Caring Each Other, YES To Greatness in Humanity, YES To Saving Our Unique Mother Earth,
YES To Great Dreams For Better Tomorrows, YES To Emerging Positive Global Energy, YES To National and Global Transparency, and
YES To Lighting Our Souls & Minds.

This e-magazine is under the umbrella of
The Light Millennium, which is
A Charitable, Under 501 (c) (3) Status, Not-For-Profit
organization based in New York.
Established in January 2000, and founded by Bircan Unver
on July 17, 2001
A Public Interest Multi-Media Global Platform.

©The Light Millennium e-magazine
created and designed by Bircan ÜNVER since August 1999.
#13th Issue, New Year-2004.
Publishing Date: December 2003, New York
URL: http://lightmillennium.org
This site is copyright © 1999-2000-2001-2002-2003-2004-2005 and trademarks ™ of their respective owners & The Light Millennium.org.
The contents of this site may not be reproduce in whole or part without the expressed or written permission of creators.
All material contained here in is protected under all applicable international copyright laws. All rights reserved.

Thank you very much to all for being part of The Light Millennium.