The secret to the power behind the #TacoTrucksAtEveryMosque movement is that halal tacos are blessed, Claudia Perez explained to L.A. Taco on a rainy Tuesday afternoon at Loyola Law in Downtown Los Angeles.
Halal means permissible and adhering to Islamic law. “It’s about how they prepare the meat,” Perez added. “It’s blessed and permissible for us to enjoy. So it’s all coming from a very heavenly place.”
Perez, who is an undocumented DACA recipient, is part of Latino Muslim Unity, an Orange County-based grassroots movement known for its heavenly tacos and popular hashtag, #TacoTrucksAtEveryMosque. The group was on hand Tuesday to distribute knowledge and tacos to a group of about 30 Loyola Law School students.
“Food is disarming,” Rida Hamida, the group’s co-founder, told the captive audience eager for the tacos being made across campus. “It makes us happy. And when you’re happy you’re more likely to listen.”
The amuse-bouche was a panel discussion in the campus conference room led by Hamida and co-founder Benjamin Vazquez, and moderated by Loyola Law student Nour Hamida. Perez, who is also executive director of Resilience O.C. Lucy Silva, a Mexican-American Muslim, also discussed the group’s efforts to create a united community of voters come November.
“If we can bring the Arab and Latino voting blocks together to defend each other, that in itself is a very powerful thing.”
The tacos were made under canopy protection on the campus basketball court and carted into the conference room by Moises Moreno, whose truck has been the source of all the halal tacos since the original event, a feast to celebrate the end of the Muslim Ramadan holiday of fasting and reflection.
The hour-long event took place on the same day President Donald Trump was visiting his wall prototypes and attending a GOP fundraiser. But despite the rain, traffic, and Trump, Hamida, in hoop earrings and pink hijab, was in a jovial mode.
“We started #TacoTrucksAtEveryMosque in response to the anti-Latino, anti-Muslim rhetoric that was part of Trump’s campaign,” Hamida told LA Taco. “Our resistance is fighting hate one halal taco at a time.” Hamida’s radiant personality underscores the #TacoTrucksAtEveryMosque message of positivity.
Vasquez told L.A. Taco he was pleased with the Loyola turnout and the chance to add to the group’s growing newsletter list. “The ultimate goal of this project is to have one strong voting block. If we can bring the Arab and Latino voting blocks together to defend each other, that in itself is a very powerful thing.”
“What better way to break our fast than with the very thing that brings us so much joy, which is halal tacos.”
Lucy Silva, who converted to Islam 20 years ago, believes Orange County is poised to go blue in the Midterm Elections. “For the first time since the Depression-era it went Democrat in the election so that’s a big sign.” Hillary Clinton won Orange County by more than 100,000 votes, according to the Orange County Registrar’s final tally.
Silva told L.A. Taco that events like this are key to spreading that message of unity and opposition the border wall and the Muslim travel ban. “The event went really well and we hope to keep doing this and spreading the message of unity.”
Silva, who spent time living in the Middle East, said that there are a lot of similarities between Latino and Muslim culture. But that she’s always held on to Mexican food as a way to express her love. “When I was in Jordan, I would make tacos and tamales because it’s what I loved and I wanted to share that with the people over there.”
Hamida, a self-described “Cali girl,” also grew up with a love for Mexican food. “I love tacos. Tacos make me happy.” It was that mutual love of tacos and underrepresented communities that first brought her and Vasquez together for that first taco truck event to break the 30-day Ramadan fast at a Mosque in Santa Ana.
“Culture is your power. Mi Cultura es mi poder.”
“During that time we are fasting but we are still working and going about our daily lives. So it’s really a test of our character because we are hungry,” she laughed. “What better way to break our fast than with the very thing that brings us so much joy which is halal tacos.”
Vasquez said the event was such a success that the Mosque elders were willing to donate the money to have it brought back right away. From there, the #TacoTrucksAtEveryMosque event has gone national with events all over California, across the border in Rosarito, Wisconsin, and Texas, where they registered early voters for the recent March primary that showed some Democratic gains in key Republican strongholds.
“This taco revolution that we are building is a force to be reckoned with and are going to continue to use it to build the voting blocks that we want,” Vasquez told L.A. Taco with a huge smile and belly full of halal tacos. “Culture is your power. Mi Cultura es mi poder. And if you use tacos which is a strong force, people will come out.”
Follow the #TacoTrucksAtEveryMosque hashtag to find out when the next pop-up will be.