When the Chipotle fast-food chain announced last week that it would be giving its customers a literary experience by printing short stories by noted writers on its cups and bags, the reaction was almost uniformly positive. A bit of Toni Morrison and George Saunders to go with your burrito: How cool is that?
But a certain small, influential group of people has taken offense -- the Latino literati, who quickly pointed out that the company (whose full name, after all, is Chipotle Mexican Grill) had failed to include a single Mexican, Mexican American or otherwise Latino writer in the 10 authors and storytellers asked to participate.
Jonathan Safran Foer chose the authors, who include Malcolm Gladwell and Sarah Silverman, for the "Cultivating Thought" campaign. Writing in the O.C. Weekly, Gustavo Arellano was not amused: “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.”
On Facebook, writers Lisa Alvarez and Alex Espinoza have created a page to gather assorted laments and protests related to the perceived slight. It's called “Cultivating Invisibility: Chipotle’s Missing Mexicans.”
“Here’s the thing. I exist. I am full of stories. Just ask me, and I’ll tell you. But you have to ask,” Espinoza wrote. “Don’t ignore me. Don’t eat my food and think you know me.”
Assorted Latino writers and readers are posting pictures of their own cups with stories written on them. “I grew up in a work truck where it is possible to wrap all the sustenance needed to survive a single day in a single sheet of foil,” Joseph Rios wrote.
In Berkeley, the Mexican fast-food restaurant Flacos is passing out blank cups and pens to customers so they can write their own stories. Michele Serros, the author of the book “Chicana Falsa,” got the campaign going with her own contribution.
“At the frozen food section at Ralph’s supermarket, the ‘Latino Style Vegetables’ are cut up all small,” she wrote. “Like little minds? Little significance? The ‘Malibu Style Vegetables’ are cut big and grand. The cauliflower, which is WHITE, is the BIGGEST veggie in the picture!”