Chipotle Now Says It Tried to Invite Latino Authors for Its "Cultivating Thought" Bag-and-Cup Series: UPDATE

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Photo by the Mexican
Chipotle thinks graffiti is art...but not Mexican writers

I see this as an unfortunate pattern, an inability to recognize the contributions of Mexican Americans as public intellectuals equal to the ones chosen for this series. We can inspire the food, create the food, plant the food, pick the food, serve the food, clear the food, clean up after it's all over...but that's about it. When I saw the story today, I went to read it with hope, with an expectation built on what Chipotle advertises itself as--thoughtful, mildly progressive--and also, I should say with the clear knowledge of what this kind of program is and is not (there are much greater injustices and omissions in the world today)--but I did imagine I'd find at least one Mexican American. Just one.

It reminds me of the phenomenon Ralph Ellison wrote about so well in Invisible Man:"I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves or figments of their imagination, indeed, everything and anything except me." In the book the narrator talks about how, "He was never more hated than when I tried to be honest. Or when, even as just now I've tried to articulate exactly what I felt to be the truth. No one was satisfied." (Gustavo note: You KNOW folks are going to dismiss the efforts of Alvarez and Espinoza as whining Mexicans for their efforts...)

Mexican Americans are today's version of Ellison's "Invisible Man" and we've been that way for a long time for many reasons... This is just a tiny example. Dagoberto Gilb is very eloquent on this subject and I have gone on too long...

Or, if you want something more succinct from Alvarez, try this: "I just wonder if this subject ever came up in the room, you know what I mean?"

UPDATE, MAY 23, 7:03 A.M.: This controversy is slooooowly getting national traction, with the usual "we don't see color" or "fucking whiny Mexicans" dismissals by critics, as you can read in the comments below. But, hey haters: Chipotle is changing its story faster than one of its burritos collapsing through its gummy flour tortilla.

Cultivating Invisibility: Chipotle's Missing Mexicans has an email from a Chipotle rep telling a critic, "It would be pretty awesome to have some Mexican-American or Latino authors included. We'll keep that in mind in the future, should we continue this campaign!" The implication is that Chipotle never bothered to think of the possibility that maybe there were Latino authors out there.

But earlier this week, a Chipotle rep told the press that the company had indeed invited Latino authors--and they said no.

"To get the slate of 10 authors we currently have, we reached out to a diverse pool of more than 40 writers that included Latino authors," Chipotle spokesperson Chris Arnold said. "Many more authors declined our request to submit a piece than accepted, including well known Latino writers."

Likely story, right? Maybe some Xicano authors out there would reject the chance to be on cups out of principle--but they wouldn't be on the radars of most readers, let alone Chipotle. I'm more inclined to side with essayist Michele Serros, who told Fox News Latino. "Chipotle's response that they 'reached out' to 'more than 40 writers that included Latino authors' is suspect. Our literary community has heard nothing of this so-called outreach to Latino authors."

So where are you, rejected authors? I'll buy you a burrito de al pastor from Taquería Tapatía if you step forward!

Oh, and a special shoutout to syndicated columnist Esther J. Cepeda, who fashions herself the female version of Ruben Navarette with her laughable, contrarian dribble. She recently wrote a column deriding Chipotle critics, whining about "upset Mexicans" and offering this gem to us: "Why not instead vow to become voracious readers, arbiters of contemporary literature, and drivers of book sales out of all proportion to the Hispanic percentage of the U.S. population?"

¡Tan pendeja! Cepeda, like most columnists, didn't do her research and thus didn't realize that the creators of Cultivating Invisibility, Irvine Valley College professor Lisa Alvarez and Fresno State's Alex Espinoza, have essentially spent their lives creating authors and readers out of non-traditional students, especially of the Latino variety. But the coup d'grace follows, when Cepeda challenges those critics to "actively cultivate...authors notable for the beauty of their words or the power of their journalism and not simply for their racial or ethnic backgrounds."

In other words, writers who aren't like Cepeda.

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