The mysterious history of tacos


These delightful creations originated in the silver mines of Mexico.

William Himelhoch, Staff Writer

A crunchy or soft outer shell filled withed various meats and vegetables, all fitting in the palm of your hand. The aroma of freshly cooked meats fill the room, and your tastebuds anticipate your first bite. With the bite, a sensation of flavor explodes into your mouth and leaves you with a great feeling. Now that you are hungry, lets begin the history lesson of tacos.

It all began in the mines of Mexico. Deep in the trenches, poor silver miners created the taquito. The taquito was a tightly rolled taco that resembled the look of sticks of dynamite used in the mines. The specific details are fuzzy, but the word itself, taco, stemmed from this creation of the taquito. It is likely that long before this, actual tacos were being constructed in Ancient Mexico with warmed tortillas and various fillings of fish or organs. The term taco was coined recently and as described above, it originated from the taquitos made by the Mexican miners.

Tacos originally were known as a poor dish for miners because if its simplicity (meat in a corn tortilla) and how filling they were. Tacos represented the working class and were called “tacos de minero,” literally meaning “miner’s tacos”.

Contrary to popular belief, the original tacos were not hard shelled. In fact, hard shell tacos only came into effect after the dish was introduced to Americans. Traditional tacos simply featured a corn tortilla and various spicy fillings. The ‘modern’ tacos nowadays feature modest foods such as cheese or lettuce that cater to the weak American tongue. It is rare to find authentic tacos nowadays but when you do, cherish them.

Authentic tacos can be found in what you call “holes in the wall.” These shops may not look the best from the outside, but they offer the closest to authentic Mexican food. Often a singular cook of Mexican descent will be all they need. For example, the restaurant Don Taco, in Tarpon Springs is one of these holes in the walls that has authentic and traditional Mexican tacos. Ones that include a warmed corn tortilla filled with meat, onions, and cilantro. A very simply yet tasty dish.

Keeping to the same topic, it is no surprise that once tacos reached America, they were changed drastically. Americans did what they do best, and they commercialized the taco. As I mentioned above, more modest flavors were introduced to please the public and the addition of the hard shell (a Mexican idea) was introduced to help aide in the commercialization process. Nowadays we have crazy spinoffs of tacos such as the Doritos Locos Tacos from Taco Bell, which features an insane Dorito shell.

Taco Bell is undoubtedly the most famous of the taco chains in America and its founder, Glen Bell, hit the jackpot. Bell was heavily involved in the commercialization process and brought to Americans what most know as tacos: soft or hard shelled (not corn tortillas) and filled with meat, cheese lettuce, tomatoes, and sometimes sour cream. Bell specifically catered to the American public and did so perfectly.

Because of all the success of tacos, the Mexican American alliance became stronger during the early 1900s. Many Mexicans would bring over their food delights and introduce the Americans to them. Such as the popular Tex-Mex that is seen on the Texas/Mexico border very famously.

What began as a traditional Mexican dish was transformed into arguably one of America’s most loved foreign foods. The commercialization of the taco allowed for it to boom in popularity and the famous chain Taco Bell has dominated the fast-food industry in the foreign column. So next time you order tacos, remember its history, and cherish the delicious meal.