Mérida, Yucatán, (April 01, 2021).- Maybe you didn’t know it, but there is National Burrito Day, dedicated to all the people who enjoy this traditional dish that mixes the culture of Mexico and the United States, so today at The Yucatan Times will tell you some information that you surely did not know.
The first is that this date is commemorated on the first Thursday of each April, to celebrate lovers of this food with flour tortillas.
Getting to know the origin of the burrito is not as easy as eating it.
The popular dish based on a flour tortilla, rice, beans and a meat complement (more recently also vegetarian) has a reference as old as 1895.
But categorically stating who came up with the “delicious” idea is not an easy thing to do.
The truth is that it is currently one of the most popular fast foods in northern Mexico and in taco restaurants in the United States.
April 4 is Burrito Day in the United States. Photo: (La buena vida magazine)
In Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, where various sources suggest that the burrito arose, the dish is sold wholesale both in specialized places for this food, as well as in street stalls where they cost is 5 pesos per piece, about US $ 0.25.
Just crossing the border, in the American city of El Paso, Texas, there are also restaurants that sell a wide variety of burritos (although the prices increase about 10 times).
Its origin and how this dish became so popular – which in the United States has a national day to on April 4 – dates back to the end of the 19th century.
1. The “burrito” from the dictionary
A dictionary of Mexicanisms published in 1895 by Félix Ramos y Duarte is one of the oldest bibliographical references in which the burrito is discussed.
“Rolled tortilla, with meat or something else inside,” says Ramos y Duarte’s compendium, in which he uses “Guan.”, The natural abbreviation of the Mexican state of Guanajuato (center of the Republic), as a reference of origin. The author puts Guanajuato, as a regional reference, but other authors locate the origin of the burritos in the north.
Dictionary of Mexicanisms, Félix Ramos y Duarte.
The author details that in Yucatán (east of the Republic) it is called coxito, while in the city of Cuernavaca and in the country’s capital it was simply called “taco” … although it is not the same, as we explain below.
2. Who invented it?
Its possible origin in Ciudad Juárez dates back a couple of decades after that 1895 reference.
At the time of the Mexican Revolution (1910-1917), a vendor callejeror, Juan Mendez, started selling food in a tortilla wrapped in that town of the state of Chihuahua, says the “Encyclopedia of American Culture” by Charles M Tatum.
In a very turbulent time in Mexico, it was a very practical meal because it did not require a plate, since the same giant flour tortilla served to contain a combination of foods.
The fact that this food was transported on a donkey is a theory about its name. Photo: (Getty images)
Another reference points out that it was created by Antonio Argueta and his wife Beatriz Flores, the founders of “Burritos Tony”, one of the most famous “burrerías” in Ciudad Juárez.
And one more theory points not to a person, but to a region that to date is one of the most consuming flour tortillas: the state of Sonora.
There, its inhabitants used to use these tortillas that do not harden as quickly as corn tortillas, so they were more practical to consume them in the arid climate of the state, says Tatum.
3. Why is it called “burrito”?
The origin of the name, burrito, is also attributed to Juan Méndez’s flourishing business. The man started in the Bella Vista neighborhood, in Ciudad Juárez, and at one point the demand for this preparation was so great that he used a donkey to carry his product.
It became so popular that Méndez also crossed the border to El Paso to take that food to his customers on the donkey that finally gave the dish its name.
The burrito was from the beginning made with a tortilla made from wheat flour. Photo: (El confidencial)
Another later reference is provided by Gustavo Arellano, author of “Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered the United States.” In his book he points out that in the 1920s the “donkeys” were brought from the state of Sonora to the American city of Tucson, Arizona.
Tatum, on the other hand, says that it was called “donkey” in Sonora because it was an easy meal to carry on the side of a horse and since donkeys were also a companion to carry a horse, this is how the name arose.
A reference to the alternate name in Tatum’s book says that a man in Ciudad Juárez sold this food to school children whom he called “burritos,” a derogatory way of calling students fools.
4. Why is it not a taco?
The difference between a traditional taco and a burrito has two aspects to consider.
The main one is that the burrito’s tortilla forms a roll to store the contents inside, while in the taco it works as an open container.
Tacos are considerably smaller than burritos, which use a very large tortilla to form a roll. Photo: (Ubereats)
The other is the tortilla, because in the burrito it has to be made from wheat flour, while the tacos are traditionally prepared with corn tortillas.
5. How did they become popular in the US?
The greater availability of wheat in northern Mexico since colonial times meant that flour tortillas were consumed more in that region than in the center or south of the country.
Trade between the northern states and the United States also led to this food being consumed in that country, mainly in states such as Texas, Arizona and California.
Burritos are one of the most popular options in restaurants that serve Mexican or “Tex-Mex” food. Photo: (Gatrolab)
Specifically in the Mission neighborhood of San Francisco, it was where the fat burritos with rice, beans and meat emerged in the middle of the 20th century, which over the decades were taken to the rest of the country.
“I have always said that the biggest fans of Mexican food are the Americans,” Arellano told the Vox site when talking about burritos and why they are so popular in that country, even more than in Mexico where many traditions are kept.
” People in Mexico are parochial with respect to their food, the people who don’t care about such nonsense are the (American) gabachos,” he adds.
Large fast food chains such as Taco Bell or more recently Chipotle have made this one of the favorite dishes of Mexican food, although with its “tex-mex” touch that is not so familiar to Mexicans.