Latino Writers Sound Off About Lack of Diversity in Chipotle Mexican Grill's New Literature Campaign
Chipotle Mexican Grill, the international restaurant chain which serves up customized burritos and tacos in an assembly line-fashion, launched an initiative meant to give customers a brief, literary experience by printing short stories on its bags and cups. "Cultivating Thoughts" features writers such as Toni Morrison, Sarah Silverman, Jonathan Safran Foer and George Saunder. But noticeably missing from its lineup are Mexican-American and Latin American writers.
The campaign has attracted outrage due to the restaurant's failure to acquire a Latino voice to print on its disposable paperware. The blunder inspired a Facebook page, created by writers Lisa Alvarez and Alex Espinoza, titled, "Cultivating Invisibility: Chipotle's Missing Mexicans," which houses a collection of criticisms and messages for the company, including, "Don't ignore me. Don't eat my food and think you know me."
Gustavo Arellano, lecturer with the Chicana and Chicano Studies department at California State University, Fullerton and editor of O.C. Weekly, shared his thoughts on Jonathan Safran Foer, who selected the authors. "In Foer's world, Latino authors simply don't exist and simply don't appeal to his Chipotle worldview of what the chain is advertising as 'Cultivating Thought' — the only Mexican cultivation the two approve for their beloved burritos is the tomatoes harvested by Florida pickers."
Many writers have indicated that they believe Latinos' absence from Chipotle's merchandise speaks to a larger diversity issue in the literary world. Latin Post reached out to Latino Authors to collect opinions on the gross oversight.
"Irony of ironies: Chipotle happens to be headquartered in one of the epicenters of the Chicano movement: Denver, Colorado," wrote Rich Villar, author of "Comprehending Forever", in an email to Latin Post. "Rodolfo 'Corky' Gonzales, who authored THE seminal poem of the Chicano movement, 'I Am Joaquin,' was born in Denver. If the chain really wanted to pay something other than lip service to Mexican-American heritage or culture, they need look no further than the city they're in. For that matter, they could talk to the Latino/Chicano poets who are currently IN Colorado: Maria Melendez, Juan Morales, and Ramon Del Castillo, to name THREE. And my list is positively miniscule."
"We also cannot expect a national corporation, with the same cultural blind spots that plague the nation, to suddenly pay attention to a literature that is systematically ignored. It's up to those of us who are Latinos, and writers, to continue insisting upon our literature as American literature and indeed on the same par as Jonathan Safran Foer," Villar added.
Chipotle's customer service consultant Amanda C. responded to Latin Post in an email, writing "We're very proud of this program and hope you will enjoy it as well. We certainly did not actively exclude any writers, we simply chose writers who expressed an interest in joining forces and sharing their stories. This project is still in its early stages and it's quite possible we will add more authors to the list at a later date."
Chipotle spokesperson Chris Arnold told Fox News Latino, "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. Many more authors declined our request to submit a piece than accepted, including well known Latino writers."
But author Michele Serros has called Chipotle's "attempt" to connect with Latino writers "suspect," and said that writer Cristóbal Olivares did happen to find a silver lining, one Latino link to the project.
"Sarah Silverman's great great grandfather was one-quarter Argentinian!" Olivares posted on Facebook. "Our fears have been assuaged, Chipotle *does* value us!"
Alisa Valdes, the author of numerous works including "The Dirty Girls Social Club", also spoke with Latin Post about Chipotle's omission. She was unhappy with both the list of selected authors as well as the campaign in general.
"In the list of world atrocities, the thus-far failure of Chipotle to include a full and representative diversity of authors on its landfill-destined fast-food bags ranks pretty low for me," Valdes wrote. "Climate change, genocide, widespread female genital mutilation, human trafficking, rogue and missing nuclear weapons, the deportation of Justin Beiber (okay, not that) — these are the real issues of the day. Is it almost astonishingly stupid on Chipotle's part to seek to promote bestselling authors in their Mexican-inspired restaurant chain, without including among their choices a single Mexican or Mexican-American (or Mexican-Argentine, or Mexican anything) author? Indeed. Is it just the latest instance of the powerful in the United States being blind to the 60 million citizens of its own country who are Latinos — Latinos who, like all other human beings, have to eat every day (unless they are Adriana Lima)? Clearly."
"But the beautiful thing about capitalism and democracy is that consumers get to choose where to buy their overpriced, uninspired tacos. Basically, this is just a more elegant version of the 'Great Historic Taco Bell Chihuahua' debacle, and I suspect the leadership at Chipotle will, at some point, have to either remove their blinders and work a bit harder than googling the Oprah Book Club for great "thought leaders," or embrace their new role as the Mexican food establishment Mexicans and other Latinos love to hate. Up to them," she added.
"It is almost as stupid for Chipotle to forget to include Latino authors in its roundup of "great" writers featured on their fast food bags as it is to, you know, promote "great authors" on fast food bags in the first place," added Valdes. "There's nothing smart about any of it."
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