You know Tacolandia, LA Weekly's massive taco festival curated by our own Bill Esparza, has become a Southern California cultural institution when a random lady asked me on Tuesday when I was going to reveal the People's Judge winner, and if she won. While I was serving myself water. In the evening. YIKES!!!
Over 100 people entered 10-word entries about the glories of tacos. They entered haikus and poems, acrostics and rants. Scrawls that used tacos as synonyms for vaginas (BRUH...) and pleas that ended with #fucktrump (#fucktrump). Straightforward orders, and "tacos" repeated 10 times, as a mantra. But in the end, a brilliantly simple homage won the game.
But first! The rest of the judges for Tacolandia. ROLL CALL!
Cynthia Rebolledo is a contributing writer for the OC Weekly covering anything and everything food, culture and spirits.
Patty Rodriguez is senior producer On Air With Ryan Seacrest radio morning show, creator and co-founder of Lil' Libros children's book publisher, and MALA by Patty Rodriguez jewelry. She is devoted to her 2 young children and believes in magic and tacos!
Besha Rodell is the restaurant critic for LA Weekly. She once won a James Beard award because she drank too many 40s. Her first book, about the way Americans really eat and drink, will be published by Clarkson Potter in 2018.
Daniel Hernandez is the head of Raze News, and formerly with VICE, LA Weekly, and the Los Angeles Times.
Sarah Portnoy is a professor of teaching in the Spanish Department at USC where she teaches classes on Latino Food Culture in Los Angeles and Food Justice in Latino Los Angeles. She recently published a related book, Food, Health and Culture in Latino Los Angeles (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016). She just spent 3 weeks in Oaxaca teaching a course on Oaxacan food culture and food activism.
Lalo Alcaraz is the legendary cartoonista behind La Cucaracha, where his Taco Cart Guy has fought for the dignity of tacos for a good 15 years. He didn't submit his bio on time.
Cristela Alonzo has been a Mexican most of her life. Her hobbies include writing bios about herself in the third person. Some might say that she’s a talented stand-up comic (has an hour special called Lower Classy currently streaming) but it really depends on what Netflix reviews you decide to believe. If you see her ordering tacos anywhere, she gets a minimum of five…and yes, they’re all for her.
Matt Muñoz is an entertainment columnist with The Bakersfield Californian, covering the antics of the Southern San Joaquin Valley and California's most interesting movers and shakers since 2005. He's also the lead vocalist, saxophonist and percussionist for Cali Latin ska veteranos Mento Buru, who celebrate 25 years of busting chanclas in 2017. Matt plans to bring his fiercely Chicano taste buds to the this year's judges panel, his fiance Miranda to get her grub and pachanga on, and has attended all but one Tacolandia.
Beto Duran is a longtime sports reporter in Southern California and the host of Living the Dream podcast. He also really, REALLY likes Maná.
Farley Elliott is the senior editor for Eater in Los Angeles, and the author of the book Los Angeles Street Food: A History From Tamaleros to Taco Trucks.
As the eldest of the three founding brothers, Wing Lam co-founded Wahoo’s Fish Taco in 1988 and has more than 37 years of experience in the restaurant industry. Wing actively supports many national and local community-based events and non-profit organizations including Share Our Strength, Orangewood Children’s Foundation, Laurel’s House, Festival of Children, Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Muscular Dystrophy Association and Surfrider Foundation. Wing holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Finance and a Minor in Spanish from San Diego State University. He is also a part-time Adjunct Professor for Concordia and Chapman Universities' MBA programs.
Ryan Gattis is the author of the upcoming novel Safe (released on 08/01), and All Involved: A Novel of the 1992 L.A. Riots, which won the American Library Association’s Alex Award & the Lire Award for Noir of the Year in France. Gattis lives and writes in Los Angeles, where he is a member of the street art crew UGLARworks, and a founding board member of 1888, a Southern California literary arts non-profit.
José R. Ralat is a Texas-based food writer specializing in tacos. He's written for Texas Monthly, Cowboys & Indians, Munchies, and Dallas Observer, among other media outlets, and he is the author of the forthcoming book American Tacos: A History and Guide to the Taco Trail North of the Border. Read more of his work at www.thetacotrail.com.
And now, the People's Judge!
Melissa Hidalgo is a writer, profe, & certified taco eater. She wants taco trucks on every corner.
Melissa is also the author of Mozlandia: Morrissey Fans in the Borderlands, a great book that tackles the eternal Chicano love affair with Morrissey. So it wasn't much a surprise that her winning entry referenced the Mancunian:
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"There's more to life than tacos, but not much more."
YES!!! Short, simple, beautiful, and puts tacos in their rightful place. The line, of course, is a take from the Smiths' "Handsome Devil":
Full disclosure: I wrote the forward to the book. No, I wasn't paid. No, Melissa isn't my friend. Yes, a contraction counts as one word. No, your 10-word taco essay wasn't better than hers. Yes, you can enter next year. See you at Tacolandia this Saturday, and better luck next year!