Why the #TacoTrucksAtEveryMosque Movement Is So Important
It comes down to representation.
What’s that smell? Some might say it’s tacos. Others might get a whiff of fried pita wraps.
Yet others might smell the alluring scent of social justice.
In southern California, Latino and Muslim communities have coalesced around an unexpectedly scrumptious topic — political and social representation — and they’re calling their movement #TacoTrucksAtEveryMosque.
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Building off a trend popularized in the 2016 election of taco trucks becoming a physical manifestation of the demographic growth of Latinos in the US and a sign of resistance against xenophobia, Orange County residents Rida Hamida and Ben Vazquez are now using taco trucks to bring together Muslim and Latino communities to call for “Latino-Muslim unity,” NPR reports.
According to the report, the first #TacoTrucksAtEveryMosque gathering took place last June, and has since spread to seven other locations, with the next event planned for this May. Guests are served Middle Eastern and Mexican fusion specialties from food carts specializing in both cuisines, and are encouraged to mingle across cultures.
"It's our job as activists to nurture understanding and build relationships,” Vazquez told NPR. “And we are developing deeper relationships as we build this."
Leaders of the group have emphasized the importance of increasing political representation for members of both demographics, noting that Orange County has only one Muslim representative and that few Latinos serve in local or state government outside of major cities like Anaheim.
Nationwide, roughly 6,100 Latinos serve in elected office, according to the NALEO Directory of Latino Elected Officials, which amounts to only about 1% of all local, state, and national officials nationwide. According to the US census, Hispanics make up more than 17% of Americans.
Muslims make up a much smaller proportion of Americans (about 1%), and while the number of Muslim federal, state, and local officials hasn’t been officially tallied, the site Muslim Observer listed two federal Muslim representatives and 19 state representatives.
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This lack of representation has made implementing safeguards against discrimination especially difficult in these communities. In Orange County, hate crimes against minorities rose significantly between 2015 and 2016.
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Since 2015, hate crimes against both Latinos and Muslims have risen nationwide, as well.
US President Donald Trump has taken border security as a tenet of his administration’s first term, including advocating for building a wall on the southern border of the US and restricting immigration from Muslim-majority countries.
The #TacoTrucksAtEveryMosque repudiates these policies, while at the same time creating a safe space for these communities to interact.
"Dismissed people are longing for a space in these divisive times," Hamida, one of the two founders of the movement, told NPR. "And they're doing it in a delicious way."