The 10 Most Important Tacos in Taco History

Tacos, tacos, tacos!EXPAND
Tacos, tacos, tacos!

This week marks the beginning of Hispanic Latino Chicano Brown People Heritage Month, a time where corporations outdo each other in pandering for pesos. We here at the Weekly are not immune to such cheap points—hell, we pander all year! So in the spirit of that, behold a listicle celebrating taco history, specifically the 10 most important tacos of all time. Why tacos? Because it's the 100th anniversary of the taco's official debut in the United States, as you'll soon find out...

10. The First Taco to be Called a "Taco"

While Mexicans have been putting food inside a tortilla, folding the tortilla in half, and calling it lunch since before the Popol Vuh, this meal took on the name "taco" only in the late 19th century. Before that, the word could mean anything from a pool cue to a stick of dynamite to getting drunk, and still means other things in other Hispanic countries to this day—hell, the Real Academia Española counts 27 definitions for the word. Who first called a taco a taco? No one knows...yet, but that genius deserves a taco al pastor.

9. Juvencio Maldonado's Taco-Machine Patent

Maldonado's taco machine
Maldonado's taco machine

In 1950, Juvencio Maldonado applied for and received a patent for a machine that would make taco-making a far-easier endeavor. Remember (or learn for the first time) that in those days, a taco was universally made from a fried shell, which meant each shell needed to be fried fresh, and individually folded. Maldonado, a Oaxacan immigrant who ended up in Manhattan in the 1930s, devised a machine that would allow multiple shells to be created at the same time. The effort gained him a mention in the New York Times, though it never took off commercially. Nevertheless, Maldonado's curious contraption showed to what efforts Mexicans would go through in the next decades to keep up with gabacho demands for tacos.

8. Jennifer Lopez's "Taco Kisses"

The most famous taco song of all time, and a foreshadowing of Cartman's love of Mexican food, which took him to the infamous Casa Bonita in Denver, the weirdest Mexican restaurant in the world.

7. The First Picture (and Recipe) of a Taco

Haffner's contribution to tacos
Haffner's contribution to tacos
From California Mexican-Spanish Cook Book

Behold the earliest known recipe and photo for a taco in English or Spanish. It comes from California Mexican-Spanish Cook Book, a 1914 collection of recipes by one Bertha Haffner-Ginger. The Midwestern woman was an early apostle of tacos, traveling around the country to herald the good news. "An announcement that my lesson for the day would be Spanish dishes invariably brought record-breaking crowds in any city in the United States," Haffern-Ginger wrote in the introduction to her book.

6. The Taquitos at Cielito Lindo

Taquitos galore
Taquitos galore
Photo by The Mexican

The first popular tacos in the United States weren't the hard-shell ones or even the "soft" versions but rather these rolled beauties at the Olvera Street standard. Though Cielito Lindo doesn't claim to have invented the taquito (far from it; the restaurant's websites say that its founder just brought over the food from her native Zacatecas) or even be the first restaurant to serve them, all the other restaurants in Los Angeles began copying their exact method—in a small paper tray, smothered in green sauce—in the 1930s, leading to the quick spread of the taquito across the country and whetting America's appetite for the tacos to come.

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