Monthly Archives: April 2013

Taco Tour, Madison Edition

Today I had an unexpected stop on my taco tour: Healthy Mexican Food truck on the UW-Madison campus. I had attempted to execute a stop of this tour in Irvine, California, but it turns out that there is not much in the way of tacos there (or sidewalks, honestly). So, I had even less hope for Madison, the next stop on my cross-US-tour. In fact, I was prepared to go to Chicago well before my flight and go to the city and have some delicious tacos there. Even worse, the restaurant proclaimed itself to be healthy. Good Mexican food and healthy Mexican food, as one says in Spanish, no van de la mano, that is, they do not go together, generally speaking.

Nevertheless, I was assured by Madison residents that this was the food truck to go to for tacos. The options at this truck were limited, but this did not limit their deliciousness. I could order corn or wheat tortillas (the right answer was obviously corn. They also had burritos, where the right answer is wheat, but I prefer tacos to burritos. But I digress). I had one taco al pastor and one chicken taco, which came with a side of radishes and cucumbers (to make them healthy) and small helpings of rice and refried beans. Best of all, all of this food cost only seven dollars. Seven dollars. For all the delicious, delicious food served to me on the street.

Moral of the story/Message to the City of Toronto: get yourself together and allow people to serve good food on the street. I understand you are taking steps in this direction, but steps are not the same as a taquería on my corner or my university campus.


Grad school and television have gone hand in hand for me. Although I did not have a tv when I was a kid, I have made up for lost time. (Sorry mom! The pop culture that was going to rot … Continue reading

Thesis summary

For those 10 readers who are related to me and who read what I write regardless of content, I will summarize my thesis. If you would like, I can send you the presentation I gave at the beginning of my defence, but since that was written for people who had already read my entire thesis, I am not sure it would be that helpful. 

My thesis is essentially an allegorical reading of the Easter narrative in the context of mid-twentieth century Mexican history and literature, as long as you understand the Easter narrative in the following way. The individual body of Jesus dies because of the oppression from the Romans in his context, and then rises, in body and spirit, to begin a movement of collective change or religious renewal, that eventually came to be based on the collective body of Christ (in the Church or perhaps through communion, or, for you sacramentally minded types, the Eucharist).

In my thesis, I read novels and short stories and focus my analysis on characters. I argue that characters who are less powerful are denied the opportunity to be individuals, by more powerful characters, perhaps allied with religious or governmental forces. I read this denial of individuality through the stories’ emphasis on their bodies. At the same time (so here there is no three days in the tomb, just an abrupt reversal) I propose reading these characters’ bodies as an example of collective change, and that because the novels and short stories emphasize their bodies, they are able to relate to one anther and transform their situations. 

Unacknowledged acknowledgments

The thesis, or should I say dissertation, essentially begins with an acknowledgment section. There is the abstract, and then the acknowledgments, then the table of contents, then the thesis itself. A future blog post will be about an alternative acknowledgment section and will say everything I wanted to say but felt like it wouldn’t be appropriate (example: gracias por los juegos de bingo/thanks for the Bingo – to my friend C, or thanks for letting me fb chat with you about the same thing every day while I was in Mexico – A). In spite of these egregious oversights, I did include some truthful comments that were simply masked in formal language. Special thanks to RG and PF, because “without their friendship and hospitality, I would have been exposed to far fewer cultural and academic spaces,” which really meant thanks for the trips that involved failed attempts to go to the Monsiváis museum, or the failed attempt to see altares for the Día de muertos, among other things. Most of the acknowledgements are in fact thanks to my family and friends. Even though these relationships have sometimes been overtaken by my relationship with my thesis, the family and friends remain.

Yesterday, I reviewed the typos in what had effectively become the primary relationship in my life, and noticed how often I mention the conflict between Church and State in Mexico was manifested in conflicts over education. These conflicts result in disagreements and gruesome murders in at least two of the stories I deal with. As I was revising, I was listening to a podcast (Snap Judgment, NPR) that was talking about residential schools in Canada, and the conflict between the Canadian government and Inuit and First Nations culture that took place through education, largely via Churches. The Canadian government was so invested in making all Canadians a certain way, and using education to do so, that it interfered with the lives of religious minorities – such as Doukhobors and Mennonites. Indeed, in the 1920s, 30s and 40s, some Canadian Mennonites immigrated to Mexico to gain autonomy over education, as well as their broader cultural, religious and linguistic practices.

When I think of these Mennonites, my education, my thesis and acknowledgements, I must acknowledge that there is something missing from that first page of my thesis. My paternal grandmother who refused to let my mom name me after her. One of my few memories of going to the farm as a kid was pulling out a paper from one of the drawers under the kitchen table and finding it full of fractions. My grandma, never having had the opportunity to complete a high level of formal education, would do fractions for fun. So yesterday, in an effort to tie up the disparate threads of past, present and thesis, I wore a headscarf (as a scarf) that my grandma had embroidered that matched the blazer and dress I bought at a thrift store.

Toronto: 5 years later

bike tires angled just so on streetcar tracks covered in rain

Thesis thoughts

I am running errands to divert the nervous energy that has arisen from the fact that I’m defending my thesis tomorrow. Yesterday, I went and returned some bottles to the Beer Store. When the Beer Store started collecting bottles a few years ago, it inadvertently spurred the development of an alternative or informal economy, at least in urban areas. It’s pretty common to see bottles on the curb, waiting to be picked up, but sometimes I go return bottles and take the 50 cents and go to Starbucks. The people who would otherwise pick up the bottles are likely on some kind of social assistance and look for an alternative source of income – because if they find a job in the formal economy, their earnings are taken out of the limited funds they get from the government. 

These people remind me of the fourth chapter of my thesis, which is about a re-adaptation of the Gospel of Luke called El Evangelio de Lucas Gavilán, a re-adaptation of the Gospel of Luke in 1970s Mexico that I have mentioned elsewhere on this blog. In this novel, Jesus’ apostles are pepenadores, or garbage-pickers, a marginalized community in Mexico City. If this novel were set in 2012 in Toronto, I wonder, would the apostles be the people who pick up the bottles I am too lazy to return? At the same time, if we idolize this group and inscribe these meanings on them, as if they were not people in their own right, does that prevent us from seeing these people who carry heavy loads of bags and bottles as people?

Taco Tour: Part 3

I have had many ideas for posts lately, but in the interest of continuing or concluding the taco theme on my blog, I will stick with tacos. The other day I had a mad craving for tacos, and longed for a taquería on my corner. Or anything that would sell me food, to be honest. Anything but the places I normally go (grocery store I don’t like, large drugstore chain that aims to be on every corner, corner store that has organic produce). So I went to Dos Amigos. This restaurant seems a bit more upscale than Gran Tenoch, La Tortilleria or El Trompo. Incidentally, it was not any more expensive. In fact, I think it came out to less than El Trompo and the tacos were definitely better.

Here are the tacos al pastor:

Good tortilla base. Pork. Pineapple.

Tacos al pastor

These tacos were beautifully presented (not sure if this was a plus or a minus), and tasted good, likely because they were made using better meat than your average street taco. Also like Mexican tacos, they didn’t leave the best feeling in my stomach. This was a definite minus. So I will not be going back.