- Liana Mallia
Where Did Tacos Come From?
Delicious and convenient, the taco is an iconic symbol of authentic Mexican cuisine that food lovers everywhere can't get enough of.
With the world's obsession for convenience and versatility, it's no surprise that over 4.5 billion tacos are enjoyed in North America each year! Whether you prefer your taco to be filled with chicken, beef, pork, fish, vegetables, beans, or cheese, there's room for an incredible amount of versatility that can be enjoyed by all flavour palettes – but where did North America's favourite street food originate?
The Brief History of Tacos
Although its origin is unknown, it is believed that tacos were popularized in 18th century Mexican silver mines. Many historians have stated that the word "taco" refers to explosive powder charges used to detonate these silver mines. Shortly after, miners started referring to their lunches as "tacos" because they believed that tortillas filled with potatoes and meat resembled the cigar-shape of dynamite. This theory is also backed up by the fact that the first type of tacos were called "taco de minero," which translates to "miner's tacos."
The Rise of Taquerías
During the early 19th century, tacos quickly became one of Mexico's most popular dishes due to the rise of the working class. According to Smithsonian Magazine, migrants from all over the country were brought to Mexico City to find work, and many female migrants began to open taquerías, which originally referred to taco stands. Because different regions in Mexico offered different foods, Mexico City quickly became the most popular hub for taquerías, allowing migrants from all over the country to showcase their region's most popular flavours and ingredients in true taco style. Roadside taco stands are still referred to as taquerías in Mexico; however, many taquerías today have evolved from outdoor taco stands to full-blown restaurants located inside of buildings and shopping malls.
Tacos in America
Tacos were first introduced to American cuisine in 1905 when Mexican migrants began to work in American mines and railroads. Like the rise of taquerías in Mexico City, Mexican food carts quickly became popular in Los Angeles, resulting in Americans instantly falling in love with the new flavours, spices, and ingredients they were tasting.
In 1920, traditional Mexican tacos were slowly fused with American ingredients. Authentic Mexican tacos are comprised of grilled meat wrapped in soft-shelled corn tortillas. In contrast, their American counterparts involve tacos with hard-shelled flour tortillas topped with shredded cheese, lettuce, and diced tomato. Unlike American tacos, traditional Mexican tacos can also include carne asada, white fish, pork stomach, grilled grasshoppers, and pineapple. This is because there are many ingredients easily available in Mexico that are harder to find in the States.
The Popularity of Tacos as Fast-Food in America
You've probably enjoyed what is popularly known as a "taco shell" at least once in your life. These U-shaped, pre-fried shells were patented by Mexican restaurants in the 1940s and then popularized 20 years later by Glen Bell, Taco Bell's founder. Hard shell tacos are not traditional items that you would find in Mexico, but they quickly gained popularity in the States because they will remain fresh for longer time periods than soft shell tacos.
Whether you prefer al pastor, pork carnitas, chorizo, baja fish, or beef tongue in your taco, there is something for everyone. Browse our menu and order online or visit us in store to try a variety of delicious, authentic Mexican tacos that will be sure to satisfy!