Tacos in Mexico

Rudolph C Troike rtroike at U.ARIZONA.EDU
Sun Dec 2 18:28:45 UTC 2001

The term "taco" identifies rather different things in various parts of
Mexico, as does "enchilada". The familiar "norten~o" varieties spread from
Texas, in which the taco is folded and fried crisp and enchilada is rolled
and baked, can vary considerably, even in the US.
        In New Mexico and El Paso, enchiladas may be stacked pancake-style
before baking, and in Sonora, southern Arizona, and southern California
(at least near the border), they may be made as patties (looking like
salmon croquettes).
        My first encounter with a radically different taco came in Mexico
City in a small Veracruz restaurant, in which the tacos I ordered were, as
in one of Barry's descriptions, made by simply rolling a tortilla around
some shredded chicken. The enchiladas were, much to my surprise, fried
(like what we have come to call flautas) after being rolled around some
meat. This seemed almost a reversal of the Texas-Norten~o versions.
        I've never made an intentional study of regional variation in
Mexican cuisine, but I am sure some anthropologist/folklorist has done so.
The east coast is influenced by Caribbean features, including black beans
instead of pinto beans, and lots of seafood not found elsewhere. Probably
different regional sources of Spanish immigration, combined with original
regional differences (prior to Spanish conquest, what is now Mexico was a
complex set of different ethnic groups, with languages as different as
English, Arabic, and Chinese), and of course subsequent postcolonial
influences and movements. There is a Museo de las Culturas de Mexico just
off the Zocalo at Moneda 13 which would be a good place to check into, and
the Instituto Nacional de Antropologi'a e Historia has publications going
back to the 1930s on all aspects of modern and prehispanic Mexican
cultures (with precursors and researchers going back into the 1800s).

        Buen provecho!


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