Incoming Mexican restaurant on Easton Avenue is inauthentic
Did you know that of the 57,080 individuals that call New Brunswick home, 26 percent identify as Mexican? According to restauranteur Andrew Schiff, that means that within the next 30 days, there will be about 14,840 Mexican New Brunswick residents who will FINALLY be able to get their hands on the “true flavors” of “real Mexican food” in New Brunswick. Where you may ask? At no place other than a new Easton Avenue restaurant, called “Criminals and Tacos.”
Yes, you read that right. 14,840 children, mothers, fathers, workers and residents of New Brunswick will have to face a storefront bearing depictions of the very stereotype that they work so hard to disprove every day. A painstaking instance of blatantly offensive appropriating of Mexican culture at the heart of the city we all call home.
Overlooking the tastes of Drift Street’s El Oaxaqueño, New Street’s Taqueria-El-Poblano or even French Street’s Cinco De Mayo, Chef Schiff, a man who is allegedly famous for inventing 139 flavors of peanut butter, claims to be “bringing new Mexican flavors to (New Brunswick)” that will be “unlike anything this city has seen before.” Unlike the innumerable Mexican restaurants already existing in New Brunswick I’m sure.
I get it though. I get that the West Coast chef might exclude the “exotic and foreign” restaurants that line every sidewalk between Livingston Avenue and Huntington Street. Maybe he assumes that the students in New Brunswick are either too lazy or too frightened to wander off Easton Avenue to get their Mexican grub. Or maybe Schiff feels confident in assuming that students find the truly authentic cuisine of Jersey Avenue, French Street and the like to be TOO authentic. But what is shocking on a more obvious level is to see Schiff disregard his own brethren: two other pseudo-Mexican restaurants, Bubbakoo’s Burritos and Shaka Burrito, which are located right down the street from his new set up on Easton.
Beyond the cultural appropriation and harmful depictions harnessed by his restaurant, Schiff said, “Burritos are about as Mexican as Snow White is an American icon,” in an attempt to let readers know they will be getting “the real deal” when they come to his shop on Easton. Schiff’s claim however, dripping with irony, is funny to most people with a smidgen of worldly sense who know that burritos are as American as apple pie (and furthermore, who know that Snow White, or “Schneewittchen,” is as German a story as they come).
I urge each and every one of you reading this to boycott this restaurant as soon as it opens. Do not even give it a try. A business that exploits Mexican culture and perpetuates harmful and dangerous stereotypes does not deserve your money or your business. Instead I urge you to wander down the streets of New Brunswick — take an Uber if you must — and support the local (and truly authentic) family-owned and operated Mexican restaurants that make our city so rich.
Aven LaRosa is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in anthropology and French. She is a member of the Douglass Residential College.