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Picture An America With #TacoTrucksOnEveryCorner

Imagine a world where you can buy fresh, delicious tacos on every street corner.
T. Tseng
Imagine a world where you can buy fresh, delicious tacos on every street corner.

If you've been on social media today, you've probably noticed there's a lot of talk about taco trucks. Confused? It started like this. Marco Gutierrez, a Mexican immigrant and the founder of a group called Latinos for Trump, went on MSNBC Thursday night and said something had to be done about Mexican immigration to the U.S.

"My culture is a very dominant culture. And it's imposing, and it's causing problems. If you don't do something about it, you're going to have taco trucks on every corner," Gutierrez said.

Almost instantly, the hashtag #TacoTrucksOnEveryCorner was born and the pile-on grew faster than a Chipotle taco bowl moving down the line. By midnight, #TacoTrucksOnEveryCorner was the No. 1 one trending topic in the U.S.

Jorge Gutierrez, a filmmaker with no relation to Marco, took the warning as more of a campaign promise:

Stacey Rayner said she could vouch for how awesome this new reality would be:

And Daniel Jacox tweeted that it could, as Donald Trump has promised, make America safer:

OK, you get the point. There are just so many good ones. But let's get serious for a bit.

I called up one of the nation's foremost taco experts, Gustavo Arellano. He writes the OC Weekly's syndicated column "Ask A Mexican" and is also the author of Taco USA. He says that as absurd as Gutierrez's warning sounded to many people, it's part of a long tradition of using Mexican foods as a way to scare white Americans.

"You'd call people beaners, greasers, you'd talk about 'Montezuma's Revenge,' " Arellano says. "And even with taco trucks, you'd call them roach coaches ... this idea that somehow Mexican food is not healthy for you, and even poisonous."

But Arellano says those days are mostly gone.

"We're now of a generation where almost everyone has grown up eating Mexican food of some sort or other, whether it's breakfast tacos, breakfast burritos, or big huge combo platters. So to try to say that more Mexicans means more Mexican food, if anything, that's the one thing all Americans like. You may not like the Mexican, but you sure love Mexican food."

I wanted to find out if this was true. So I took a walk to the long line of food trucks about a block from NPR headquarters in D.C. There was a fried chicken truck, an Afghan cuisine truck, and then a Mexican-Korean taco truck. Good enough.

Gina Cordero was taking a selfie to post to Twitter under the hashtag. She'd just ordered two pork tacos and one chicken. I asked her how she felt about the prospect of a taco truck on every corner. "As a Republican, I support small business," she said. "It's a good thing for the economy!"

I tried to get one more interview, with the food truck's owner. But he was too busy, selling tacos.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Adrian Florido is a national correspondent for NPR covering race and identity in America.