How #TacoTrucksAtEveryMosque Is Bringing Communities Together One Taco At A Time

The movement is about much more than halal tacos.

The premise of #TacoTrucksAtEveryMosque is simple: a taco truck parks at a mosque and serves free halal tacos to unite Latinos and Muslims. But the impact the movement started in southern California is much bigger. With every meal, organizers hope the shared experience and conversation will foster unity between the Muslim and Latino communities and serve as a reclamation of two cultures whose members are frequently left out of or vilified in the mainstream narrative. 

The movement, a tongue-in-cheek response to a comment in the fall of 2016 from a supporter of then-presidential candidate Donald Trump who warned of the impending dominance of Latino culture that would lead to "a taco truck at every corner," started as a conversation between Rida Hamida and Ben Vazquez. Hamida and Vazquez, both community organizers in Orange County, founded Latino Muslim Unity, a grassroots movement in partnership with Resilence OC that unites Latinos, Muslims, and allies through introducing cultural food in their community building projects to build social, cultural and political power. During Ramadan last year, Hamida and Vazquez had discussed a creative way of introducing their cultural food through #TacoTrucksAtEveryMosque and wanted to expand efforts to unite the Muslim and Latino communities from Rosarito, Mexico to Sacramento California. 

"Our cultural food is our healing power," Hamida told A Plus. "We're bringing the very thing that is demonized, the taco truck, and we're bringing to another space that's demonized, and we're going to celebrate and embrace who we are. Let's lean in and embrace our identities."

#TacoTrucksAtEveryMosque in Sacramento. 
#TacoTrucksAtEveryMosque in Sacramento.  Photo courtesy of Rida Hamida & Oswaldo Farias

Hamida and Vazquez hosted the first #TacoTrucksAtEveryMosque event last June at the Islamic Center of Santa Ana during Ramadan, the holy month in which Muslims fast during daylight hours. By serving the taco, a staple of Latino cuisine,  with only halal meat, meat that is prepared in adherence to Islam, the movement asks each community to be open to an experience that is both new and familiar. 

Many of the issues that affect the Muslim community also affect the Latino community. Both are feeling the effects of a White House with a new, and in many ways harsher, policy on immigration. Both are experiencing a gentrification of their traditional neighborhoods. But, Hamida and Vazquez found that the two groups weren't working together to tackle these issues. 

"These communities live amongst each other and they work amongst each other, but they don't connect to one another and that is why we are changing culture, to get to know one another," Hamida said. 

The connections #TacoTrucksAtEveryMosque hopes to foster go beyond the political. While there are organized conversations about macro issues, the key aspect of the movement happens on a micro level. Through individuals sharing their stories and listening to the stories of others, the barriers between the Latino and Muslim communities begin to break down.

Founder Rida Hamida, and co-founder Benjamin Vazquez of Latino Muslim Unity.
Founder Rida Hamida, and co-founder Benjamin Vazquez of Latino Muslim Unity. Photo courtesy of Rida Hamida & OC Register

"Latinos and Muslims are not monolith," Hamida said. "We are everyday people, we are the middle class, the working class, we are Blacks, Asians...Latinos come from different faiths, different countries of origins and have different experiences, we need to understand that when we listen to our stories. We are humanizing our identities."

"As we continue these conversations, that rhetoric of hate starts to fall by the wayside," Vazquez added. "As we break down the negative stereotypes that have been pushed on them, then that's going to lead into the questioning of those hate words that are thrown in the media. Those are going to go by the wayside and we're going to start supporting each other."

Where large-scale protests help mobilize populations into action, and Hamida and Vazquez recognize the importance of those events, their hope is for #TacoTrucksAtEveryMosque to be a movement of healing. They hope to build a space for individuals to reflect on not only how their communities have been hurt by hate, both internally and externally. 

"A lot of times people are talking about knowledge and how knowledge is power, but I think that healing is power, too," Hamida said. "This movement, there's a healing power of bringing people together and eating and listening..there's this that's so important, but we also need to heal and we also need to connect."

Halal tacos served at #TacoTrucksAtEveryMosque Crosses the Border in Rosarito, Mexico.
Halal tacos served at #TacoTrucksAtEveryMosque Crosses the Border in Rosarito, Mexico. Photo courtesy of Rida Hamia

More than 400 people attended that first event, and the movement has rapidly expanded. Since then, with the grassroots movement has held seven events and served 7,300 people nearly 29,000 tacos. Currently, the next #TacoTruckAtEveryMosque is scheduled for this May. 

Hamida and Vazquez plan to take the movement national during Ramadan this year with a strong focus on getting people to polls in November. They hope to partner with mosques in five cities across the country to host #TacoTrucksAtEveryMosque events, with the opportunity to register to vote at each. 

"There's a consistency with everything that we do. At the end of the day, you can't have meaningful conversations without healing," Hamida said. "There has to be a healing component, a nurturing component. I think that's what's captured people's imagination is that they feel healed and they feel like there's a healing process with this movement. We can't fix the world, but what we can do is try to fix our hearts. And those hearts are broken because of the demonization of our communities. We are creating healing spaces and building community bridges, through taco trucks at every mosque."

Cover image via  Prostock-studio / Shutterstock.

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