Mexican Cuisine Along the U.S.-Mexico Border

The epitome of misconception and ignorance with Mexican culture lies within the preconceived ideas of what Mexican cuisine truly is. America provides us with chains like Taco Bell to give us a taste of what this culture can provide. But is Mexican food really tacos, burritos, and enchiladas? I’m here to tell you that is very incorrect. This paper discusses what true Mexican food is along the U.S.-Mexico border, the zenith of tourism of Mexican culture and cuisine.

The purpose of Mexican cuisine is not only to satisfy the taste buds of its consumer, but to also tell the story of the culture it was created in. Mexican culture and cuisine is derived from many roots, such as Spanish, French, Dutch, and Lebanese (Walker 665). There are minor differences between choices in ingredients of these meals over time, such as preferring a wheat tortilla to a corn one. All of the trial and error that it went through is what the final product that is presented today went through.

The history of how Mexican cuisine came to the popularity that it is today comes from street vendors called “chili queens” (Pilcher 448). These rowdy women accumulated the tourism that was dragged along the SouthWest of the U.S.-Mexico border and Northern Mexico to places such as Tijuana and Mexico City (Pilcher 450). With increases in tourism came increases in sanitary cleanup and overall restaurant improvement. Mexican restaurants can finally convey the message of their food and culture by means of restaurant setting and meal choices, and not have to worry about working conditions and sanitary issues. Mexican food brings peak tourism during holidays where the cuisine is consumed in high quantities. However, this high demand creates a burden for not only chefs, but for the females of the families as well (Pilcher 90).

The struggle of true Mexican food is the modernization and Americanization of the food culture. America had tainted the food by creating more efficient means of production, like pre-formed taco shells, and developing a generic menu for chains like Taco Bell, Chipotle, and Moe’s (Walker 662). Although these dishes are delectable and get the job done for the basic human need of hunger, the true flavor of Mexican food is lost, as well as the story that is conveyed by the spices and ingredients picked for this specific cuisine. The restaurants and dishes provided along the U.S.-Mexico border still tell the story of the culture through scenery and meals, and thus gives it the popularity it gets today.

7 thoughts on “Mexican Cuisine Along the U.S.-Mexico Border

  1. Nikki-Marie Trivisonno

    I really enjoyed reading this article. I think you have put together some good research and I am actually really interested in hearing more, since I am one of those people that you pointed out who only knows about Mexican food as taco bell and chipotle. I think you bring a=up a really good point about the Americanization causing that identification of Moe’s and such being Mexican. Thank you for sharing this.

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  2. Brendon Fay

    I also looked at food for my Toursim and Ethnicity in China project, looking at traditional Tibetan recipes. A lot of the trends that you mention in your piece seem to hold true in Tibet as well, such as the fact that the food is in many ways influenced by other types of cuisine from the same area, or the fact that recipes are often dictated by what sort of foods are readily available or easy to farm in the region. Tibetan food hasn’t gone through the same issues with modernization and misrepresentation that Mexican food has, presumably because Tibetan food usually gets overshadowed by Chinese food, which is much more popular in the US and is misrepresented in many of the same ways. A lot of people, including myself before doing research for this project, probably don’t know the difference between Chinese and Tibetan food though, which good be an issue all on its own.

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  3. Owen Petherbridge

    It seems your research proved what most of us know but refuse to believe. I think it’s very interesting how we take these cultures and twist them into our own creations, taking only the best parts and leaving out some of the smaller more important things. We love to Americanize, making things simpler so we can crank out more faster, cheaper. We see it with Chinese food, Vietnamese, Italian foo on and on…. It makes me wonder what else we have done as Americans that has changed cultures to the point where we can’t recognize the original or can’t appreciate the original .

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  4. Nathan Lubetsky

    Great job! I had the same topic of food along the US/Mexico Border, but while you delved more into the history of true Mexican food, I tried to find what actually makes it authentic. In my common assignment, I told a story as a foodie who travels in search of great cuisine. It took me to a Tex-Mex restaurant Del Rio that served the most authentically Mexican enchiladas (the real ones. Shocker, I know) I’ve ever seen, and across the border to Piedras Negras where I sampled the local street food that would knock the socks off of any American fast food chain in both taste and price. I also visited the Moderno, the birthplace of the nacho. Funny thing about the nacho though, is that it’s not commonly served in Mexico very much while being insanely popular in the US. By the end of the story, my trip to the border left more questions as to what authentic truly means. So my question is this: What do you think about nachos? Can something be authentically Mexican while still being culturally American?

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  5. Alyssa Tetreault

    Hi Tyler, thanks for your post. I enjoyed reading this post because I can relate to it 100%. In high school I went on a mission trip to Mexico and experience true Mexican cuisine (Which is nothing like what we think in the US). It was fascinating how different it was. I am not a huge fan of Americanized Mexican food but enjoyed the traditional Mexican cuisine that I tried (including cow tongue… did not know what it was until after I ate it). I think this Americanizing or Westernizing of traditional cuisine is definitely a problem as you mentioned. I also researched food in the Circassian culture, an ethnic minority in Turkey. I found that much of the cuisine was similar to Turkish but had many variations and it seemed to have more flavorful palate with lots of spice and garlic. While our professor has brought in Turkish food to sample, you can definitely tell it has been Americanized. I think this says a lot about our culture and how we treat those cultures that are minorities or whom we consider to be a minority. Thank you for sharing this insight into the Americanization of other cultures cuisine.

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  6. Andrew Filippi

    This sounds like a very exciting topic and I can’t agree with you more! Within my own 330 course, Shaking the Spirit, we have talked about Afro-Cuban food and how authentic it is and how important it is to be authentic. I am unfamiliar with the traditions of Mexican food but after taking the Shaking the Spirit course, many meals that Afro-Cubans prepare are prepared not only for themselves to enjoy and to control their hunger but also to use as an offering for a particular saint. For example, some Afro-Cubans will create very very sweet dishes to offer to both their family and saint. Is there any religious ties with Mexican food?

    When reading over your abstract, do you think that the reason for the “tainted” food is because people enjoy Americanized food better? For example, many Chinese food restaurants here are Americanized because many people in America aren’t fond of authentic Chinese food. Do you think that corporate profits are a reason for this, too? You mention preformed taco shells and chains like Taco Bell, do you think that these chains have revolutionized Mexican food by making it less authentic and cheaper in order to maximize their profits? In other words, do you think Mexican foods are Americanized and only certain items are offered (tacos, burritos, and enchiladas) because they are most popular in the U.S. market and the U.S. market enjoys more Americanized food than they do authentic? Have you looked into the market side of things?

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  7. Silas

    Very interesting. I agree that cultures along borders can and have become blended. I don’t think this is inherently bad. This relates to things I talked about it my abstract around tourism and the influx in tourists. Many tourists will visit the Southern USA to get ‘Southern Style’ foods that take many cues from Mexican foods. This is the nature of cultures spreading across borders and I find that it’s ultimately a great thing.

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