Illegal Pete's, Colorado Burrito Chain, To Keep its Illegal Name Despite Protests by Chicano Activists

Latest Illegal Pete's logo...
Latest Illegal Pete's logo...

Over in Colorado, there's been a big brouhaha over a burrito chain called Illegal Pete's trying to open an outpost in Fort Collins. Activists there tried to get the owner to change the name, arguing "Illegal" is offensive to Mexicans, arguing it's as offensive as "Redskins" and "Marco Rubio"; the story got picked up by conservative outlets, leading to all sorts of nastiness. The owner, to his credit, listened to the activists and gave his side of the story.

Then, when it was all over, he kept the name.

The move wasn't exactly surprising. Illegal Pete's has been selling burritos in Colorado for 19 years, starting in Boulder and moving on to Denver, part of the city's bizarre embrace of San Francisco's Mission-style burritos (as evidenced by the success of the Chipotle and Qdoba chains, both of which started in the Mile High City) at the expense of Den-Mex's smothered-burrito and breakfast burrito traditions. I ate once at Illegal Pete's (I'm a Chubbys and Santiago's man myself) and remember being struck by its name, but not disturbed; I just figured it was a callback to some frontier days-heritage bullshit that the Rocky Mountains region is still fond of.

In a recent post, owner Pete Turner explained the history of the Illegal Pete's name, even bringing back old logos and marketing campaigns that showed he always leaned more on Sex Pistols and AC/DC iconography for his restaurant instead of Mexican anything. It's still not good enough for activists, who vow to take the campaign to Tucson, where Turner plans to open his next Illegal Pete's. While I sympathize with activists, I still say the bigger scandal is a Colorado guy spreading the gospel of Mission burritos instead of Colorado burritos--refry that.

Email: garellano@ocweekly.com. Twitter: @gustavoarellano.

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