On Monday, a day before the start of Hispandering Heritage Month, a faux-Mexican restaurant in Charlotte, North Carolina celebrated its grand opening. Speaking with the Charlotte Observer last month, the managing partner of the company behind the restaurant promised the self-styled cantina would be “very upbeat, authentic Mexican.”
But at least one Charlotte resident checking out the new restaurant noticed something off-putting about its depictions of Mexican-ness.
A review of the restaurant by Heather Chaney for Charlotte Five features a photo of what appears to be the main waiting area, with yet another charicature of a jolly, plump, mustachioed Mexican carrying a massive margarita.
Anyone with at least one actual Mexican friend would admittedly recognize Hot Taco for what it is: a forgery. It isn’t so much a Mexican restaurant as it is a Mexican-themed restaurant.
I’ll even give the owners the benefit of the doubt and assume their dishes are depressingly delicious. Still, I’ll bet un mil pesos the food is nothing like my wife’s mother can whip up while keeping an eye on five daughters, talking to one of her church friends on the phone and watching a novela all at the same time.
Amalia Deloney, a Guatemalan-born organizer, tells Latino Rebels a petition has already been started to have the statues removed and that a community meeting will be held tonight.
Here is a copy of the letter she sent to the restauranteurs:
Stories like this out of Charlotte show in great relief the issue with so-called Hispanic Heritage Month: the United States has a lot to learn about Latino heritage before it can start celebrating it. The way to honor Latino heritage is by understanding and fully appreciating its vastness, not by looking for ways to make a profit off shallow representations.
Hector Luis Alamo is a Chicago-based writer and the deputy editor at Latino Rebels. You can connect with him @HectorLuisAlamo.