BY GUSTAVO ARELLANO
The connection between Middle Eastern and Mexican food goes all the way back to the Moors, and is well-known in culinary circles. Al pastor tacos are just a pork version of the shawarma spits that Lebanese immigrants brought with them to Mexico City in the 1930s. In nearby Puebla, a wrap called tacos árabes — Arabic tacos — uses a flatbread that’s halfway between pita and lavash. Kibbe (fried meatballs made from bulghur wheat) is popular in the Yucatán, thanks to Syrians who settled in the Peninsula over the past century. And the Lebanese-Mexican Chedraui family of Mexico City owns one of the largest Latino supermarket chains in the United States, El Super.
But it wasn’t until Orange County, Calif., residents Rida Hamida and Ben Vazquez created #TacoTrucksAtEveryMosque that someone tried to explore the political potential between Muslims and Mexicans in the United States with their shared foodways. The two put on events that are exactly what the hashtag promises. A lonchera parks at a mosque and serves free tacos after a religious service that includes a talk urging Latino-Muslim unity. Visitors feast on tacos of carne asada and chicken prepared by a halal-certified butcher.
#TacoTrucksAtEveryMosque is more than an epicurean evening of education, though. “There are layers of sharing beyond just food,” says Vazquez, a history teacher at Valley High School in Santa Ana, Calif. “It’s our job as activists to nurture understanding and build relationships. And we are developing deeper relationships as we build this.”