White Owners Of Mexican Food Truck Shut Down After Being Accused Of Cultural Appropriation

Photo: Ernesto Andrade

Kali Wilgus and Liz “LC” Connelly thought that they had realized their dream when they opened Kooks Burritos in Portland Oregon.  They were even more excited when the local newspaper Williamette Week decided to do a feature article on their new business.  The two women recounted how they watched Mexican women making tortillas on a trip to Baja California and adopted what they saw.  That admission however led to furious accusations that the two white women were guilty of “cultural appropriation.”  They eventually shutdown their food truck.

The women said that the Mexican women would not share their recipes but that they would watch the “tortilla ladies” through the window to learn the process.  They were told the basic ingredients and watched the other women at work.  They then experimented with their own recipes until they came up with tortillas as good as they experienced in Mexico.

The led to the chorus of outrage of people like Jagger Blaec of The Portland Mercury , who denounced the women as cultural appropriators. Blaec wrote that :they colonized this style of food when they decided to ‘pick the brains of every tortilla lady there in the worst broken Spanish ever.'”

This week in white nonsense, two white women—Kali Wilgus and Liz “LC” Connely—decided it would be cute to open a food truck after a fateful excursion to Mexico.

. . . So let’s recap the story thus far: These two white women went to Mexico, ate tacos, and then decided they would just take what the locals clearly didn’t want to give them. If that wasn’t bad enough, they decided to pack up all their stolen intellectual property and repackage it in one of the few places where such a business could plausibly work: Portland, Oregon.

. . . Because of Portland’s underlying racism, the people who rightly own these traditions and cultures that exist are already treated poorly. These appropriating businesses are erasing and exploiting their already marginalized identities for the purpose of profit and praise.

This seems a bit over-wrought and I certainly do not get the cultural appropriation angle.  I am part Italian and many have pick up on the cuisine of my ancestors.  I view the adoption of Italian dishes with pride.  It is true that the Mexican women did not want to share their recipe but these Oregon women wanted to learn to make great tortillas and did so by watching the masters and then experimenting at home.  The closure of their business, while celebrated by Blaec and others, is a sad end for two women who merely wanted to make good food.

80 thoughts on “White Owners Of Mexican Food Truck Shut Down After Being Accused Of Cultural Appropriation”

  1. As long as this “cultural appropriations” nonsense is confined to media jerks and plain commerce, we should just live with it. These two white women can play that game too, and use it to get new customers. People who never ate tortillas before will suddenly get a taste for them. But it’s when government gets wind of the conflict that it becomes a liberty problem. Pols will think they’ve got to choose a side in this and start making “rules” where a committee will judge if the “owners” of all Mexican heritage, including tortillas, must be compensated by the whites who “appropriate” their stuff.

  2. As an Italian, I demand the shut down of Pizza Hut, Domino’s, Olive Garden, I could go on. For those sho love movies, Big Night is a great flick about American culture invading Italian cuisine.

    There is a famous food truck guy in LA who grew up in Korea Town and near Mexicans. He has Korean/Mexican fusion trucks. Is that acceptable???

  3. I wanted to order out Chinese food last night, but felt that it would be cultural appropriation.

  4. We are coming apart as a society at the seams and this is just another symptom.

  5. We have an Italian Cafe near us, owned and run by Indians. Love it (they are friends).

    Coffee can be culturally appropriate by everyone, so long as they buy me a cup!

  6. Sorry to hear these women closed their business. Personally, I would have kept the business open just to anger these fascists. But, that is not my call since it is their company.

    Fortunately, maybe after the dust settles–and since they have a mobile platform–they could drive across the bridge to Vancouver, WA and get out of Portland.

    Coincidentally, yesterday I was in Astoria, OR and had dinner at Tokyo Teriyaki. That business also made a litany of cultural appropriations:

    Appropriated Japanese Sushi
    Served by a white woman (who was friendly)
    Two Hispanic employees were in the back working in the kitchen.
    Usually Teriyaki Japanese restaurants are appropriated by Koreans who serve to whites who appropriate their cuisine, a recursive appropriation of sorts.
    I didn’t notice but I suspect there might have been a Maneki-Neko somewhere.

    The horror…..The horror.

  7. Fine but those comlain get same in reverse no can cook an food but from their cultural background. Are people really that stupid. Let”s see only latinos can work at Taco Hell andthat place could use some decent Mexican cookin lessons anyway. Only gringos acan work in McDonals and Burger Kings and Hardees and InNOut. Not to sure where the AfroAmerians can work or cook what only African cooking and no more soul food? This stupidity has gone way too far. Little Ceasars and Papa Johns have to import Italians to their outlets in Mexico? Ha ha ha or ja ja ja and all the new sushi places are Japanese only no chinese allowed.

    Sounds like some university cultural rejects got loose from their cages on the campus …

  8. What is the moral of the story?
    I have an opinion and am curious of yours.
    As the smart guy, Prof Jared Diamond notes every culture takes and adapts from every other. Trying to bottle it up is a fool’s errand. Two elements to this story: people wanting fame, and other people wanting to blacklist them.
    The real ‘nonsense’ is thinking of the fiction of cultural purity. I talked this week of Ms Chu complaining on Yelp! that restaurants didn’t have a Japanese food called mochi. Well, some Caucasian people can make mochi. Very few but some. These woman shut down their food Truck for whatever reason. If you want to follow a nimrod who thinks food preparation can’t be copied, your misguided. It just shows they can cook. Yes, you can’t find Kentucky Fried Chicken copied in Morocco, North Africa.

  9. If Michael Jackson was still with us, would he be accused of “appropriating” whitey for bleaching his skin white and shrinking his African nose?

  10. Shall we now call food critics, who fancy themselves experts on international cuisine, cultural appropriators?

  11. Let’s just call this what it is – a racist attack against these two Caucasian women. They were driven out of business for creating recipes in a cuisine they enjoyed, which is done every single day, based solely on the basis of their race.

    Was Julia Child a cultural appropriator? She was American, not French, and yet she wrote Mastering the Art of French Cooking because French cuisine was her passion. How many chefs create madly expensive fusion cuisine, based on regions different from their own ethnicity? There are famous Italian chefs specializing in Southern cooking, and famous Southern chefs specializing in Italian cooking.

    This is stupid.

    A couple of summers in high school, I used to spend a couple of weeks in Mexico in an exchange program where I was hosted by a fabulous young family. The wife taught me how to make authentic tortillas with lard and masa harina and a thin little rolling pin. I would sit at her shoulder and “help”, a euphemism for slowing down her machine like precision. She was so kind. To call an activity such as a white girl learning how to make tortillas cultural appropriation is divisive, and a fabricated means to sow hatred. Why is this behavior OK if the victim is white? How would this have gone over if 2 black women were run out of business because they decided to learn how to make Mexican food to sell out of a food truck? Are we going to attack black women for straightening their hair or wearing Indian women’s hair as extensions? What about decorating your house with Native American art and rugs or putting a dream catcher over a crib? Or what if you like a sleek, minimalist Asian decorative theme? Most of San Francisco could be forced from their homes for decorating in anything that is not strictly traditional American. And what is traditional American if not a hodgepodge of cultures? Our very language is so difficult to learn because it contains a high percentage of words from other languages, with completely different pronunciation and spelling rules. (Ballet, valet, etc.) And seriously Halloween is a cultural appropriation nightmare! The horror!

    I like French and classical dressage styles but I am neither French nor an immortal from antiquity. I have collected words and phrases from many languages over my lifetime because I find other cultures fascinating. Am I allowed to wear my Venetian Mardi Gras mask even though I am not Italian? Shall I plead with the Liberal fascists to permit me to learn what interests me?

    The message that has been received is that Liberal fascists can take down anyone, at any time, as long as they are Caucasian, because their insidious, hateful message has worked. They teach that whites are born racist, and so anything you do to an evil person is virtuous. Couch it in an accusation of racism and you will be viewed brave, when in reality you are merely another bully.

    1. Karen S.,…
      – Julia Child actually worked for the OSS, forerunner of the CIA.
      She stoled foreign recipies under the guise of being an intelligence agent.
      I suspect that your participation in this so-called “exchange program” was a CIA cover for your real purpose of stealing Mexican recipies.
      Time to fess up, Karen S..😄

  12. Insanity. I’m so tired of this stupid mean spirited stuff. Doesn’t anyone remember when it was complementary to share the best of of ones culture. Shall we shut down all the operas and ballet in which minority artists perform “white parts”. What about Hamilton?

  13. We have Central Americans running Chinese restaurants, Koreans running Soul Food diners, and I have yet to meet someone who speaks japanese in a japanese diner on the east coast (besides hibachi and the high class ones). So long as credit is given where due there is typically little problem.
    Wouldn’t opening a taco place that says “authentic mexican owned and run” be one way of suggesting your mexican taco’s are superior to theirs?

    These are tacos we’re talking about. There’s a fast food place you may have heard of that sells them that was founded by a Caucasian over 50 years ago that’s made billions of dollars. If the issue is appropriation why aren’t you going after Bell, but instead these small fry? If it’s their act of espionage perhaps they should encourage the infringed to sue for theft of trade secret rather than this. If the problem is the infringed parties are in Mexico then why the claims that the restaurant is so you don’t have to go through brown people if no one else is selling Mexican Tacos in town? There are hundreds of videos on making mexican tacos online that don’t require peering through any windows or a trip to Mexico, so I guess if they had started by watching those this would have been a non issue?

  14. Please, don’t vote for Democrats. They come up with the stupidest ideas. How do you steal a culture?

    1. who knows how you steal a culture. GOP will let the poor die and willing to take any rights away from women. I guess they could have used a different name.

      1. That is the most stupid and phony remark in this entire sad sad sad commentary. So let’s put it another way. It’s ok to claim it’s a tax cut when it’s really just a cut on next years increased budget request even though with the cut in the increase the amouont has gone higher and therefore is no cut IF you are a Marxist Leninist but not if iyou are a Constitutonal Reublic supporter and it’s ok to take rights away from women who in turn are victimizing other women such as is done by Hillary and NOW when they turn their backs on their sisters in need to support a sex criminal and it’s ok to get big juicy college money meant for those who sign up for military service without doing anything to deserve it. What a bunch of suck ass phoneys.

    1. Tail wagging the dog . . . over the past few decades, the tail has been getting bigger and bigger.

  15. This is unacceptable in the USA. These women have the right to prepare whatever style of food they choose. Let the customer decide whether the food they prepare is good. There must be some other reason that created the controversi. Still cultural appropriation? Of what? It does not make sense to me. Another fact that does not sound right to me, it is the reaction of the women. They must have done an investment and they must have bought a permit to operate her food truck, why did they give up so fast?

    1. This is a bit much, but still preferable to the gerrymandering, climate change denying, trickle down economics, union busting, snake oil salesman domestic policies of the right. I just think the left needs to get their priorities in order. You have people being deported, killed in the streets by police etc and you’re paying equal attention to stopping cultural appropriation while achieving no tangible benefit from it? FOCUS

    2. Good comment Squeak the only difference between these fascist sucks is one kind is Internationa Socialist and the other is National Socialist but they Nazi or Communist they wear the same brown shirts, same jackboots and march with same goose step while using the stame Seig Heiler salute.

      1. By the way Taco Hell could use some cultural appropriation their imitiation Mexican food is really really crap.

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