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An Evening with Gustavo Arellano, author of Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America – reprise

September 13, 2012
Gustavo Arellano

Gustavo Arellano speaking at UTSA’s Downtown Campus on Wednesday, September 12, 2012.

On Wednesday, The University of Texas at San Antonio celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month with an evening with Gustavo Arellano, editor of OC Weekly, an alternative newspaper in Orange County, Calif.; a lecturer in Chicana and Chicano studies at California State University, Fullerton; and author of the widely syndicated column “Ask a Mexican.”

In addition to Arellano’s other accomplishments, he is also the author of “Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America.” and his topic this week was the story of how Americans came to know and love Mexican food in its many varied forms – from fast-food tacos, to Tex-mex combination platters, to gourmet dishes from interior Mexico.

Gustavo Arellano, author of Taco USA, and Roy G. Martinez, grandson of the founder of Tamalina Milling Company

Gustavo Arellano, author of Taco USA, and Roy G. Martinez, grandson of the founder of Tamalina Milling Company

The auditorium at UTSA’s downtown campus was filled to bursting with students, staff, and community members eager to listen, laugh, and ask questions about the past (and future) of Mexican food in America. One very special audience member was Roy G. Martinez, grandson of José Bartolome Martinez, the founder of Tamalina Milling Company, and the first to patent a production process for tortilla chips. The Martinez family recently donated materials to UTSA Special Collections that document their trademark applications for the Tamalina flour brand as early as 1932. They had actually been preparing and selling the chips even earlier than that – since 1919!

Gustavo Arellano, author of Taco USA, with rare books librarian Juli McLoone and Gebhardt's Mexican cooking : the flavor of the 20th century (1911)

Gustavo Arellano, author of Taco USA, with rare books librarian Juli McLoone and Gebhardt’s Mexican cooking : the flavor of the 20th century (1911)

While doing research for his book last year, Arellano contacted the UTSA Libraries Special Collections to take advantage of the library’s rich collections on San Antonio’s food history, and ultimately included two photographs from UTSA’s collections in Taco USA – one of the famous San Antonio chili queens and one of a Gebhardt’s Original Mexican Dinner package. On Wednesday, we seized the opportunity to photograph him with Gebhardt’s  first cookbook: Mexican cooking : the flavor of the 20th century, a subtitle that Arellano’s research reveals as prescient.

What does Arellano predict for Mexican food in the 21st century? Well, if you’re looking for the next big thing to sweep the U.S., he suggests keeping an eye on tortas and paletas. Or, better yet, get into the food business, and make it happen yourself!



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