SnapFotos: Gustavo Arellano talks about “Taco USA”


Gustavo Arellano's book "Taco USA."

Gustavo Arellano talks with one of his readers.

The audience listens to an excerpt from "Taco USA."

Arellano talks about the history and culture of Mexican food in the US.

An audience member listens to Arellano introduce his new book.

People gather at the CSRC to hear Gustavo Arellano speak about his new book.

You can visit this website for Gustavo Arellano‘s book tour dates.




Writing Books and Mowing Lawns

Photo by Helga Salinas

Gustavo Arellano was born in 1979 in Anaheim, California to a tomato canner and an illegal immigrant. Today he is a UCLA graduate, writes a column for the OC Weekly, is a contributing editor to the Los Angeles Times, and has appeared on talk shows such as The Colbert Report and Nightline. “I also mow lawns for $15 – $10 if I get a water break,” said Arellano.

It is this kind of tongue-in-cheek humor readers look forward to reading in Arellano’s ¡Ask a Mexican! column featured in the OC Weekly. What makes this column successful is its willingness to talk about topics that even the most open conversationalists tend to hold back from. ¡Ask a Mexican! answers any and all questions about Latinos, no matter how silly or analytical. But to those who ask prank questions, Arellano said, “I’m going to go after you.”

Beyond his column, Arellano’s greater objective is inspiring others to seek the truth because so many times people don’t want the truth to exist. So when this former UCLA graduate student was offered the opportunity to teach as a lecturer on journalism for Spring quarter at UCLA, he jumped at the opportunity.

The course Arellano teaches at UCLA is Chicano Historical Journalism, where he teaches students how to do research and write magazine-style stories about Chicano history in Southern California. The class is open for anyone interested in uncovering the truth. “They don’t need to have a background in journalism, they just need to have a passion for finding great stories,” said Arellano.

Stephanie Fletes, a second-year Chicano studies student at UCLA, is taking Arellano’s course this spring quarter.  What she likes most about the class are the readings Arellano assigns.  “The readings are stories that haven’t been told to the public. They are histories about the Chicano culture,” Fletes said.  Fletes feels it is encouraging as well as important to have Arellano as a professor, because Arellano portrays how a Chicano can make their dreams come true.

Coming from a working class background, Arellano feels he can relate to his Chicano students because, for the most part, their story is the same as his. As the first in his family to go to college, he said, “Things aren’t explained to us, yet we do it on our own.” Arellano appreciates the hardships that Chicano students must struggle with on a daily basis.

As an advocate of the DREAM Act, Arellano wants DREAMers in particular to know that they have his support. He sees undocumented residents as a major issue in the Latino community. “When are these people going to be citizens, when? We still don’t have enough Latino students going to college and getting degrees,” said Arellano.

For Arellano, uncovering the truth is not limited to his column. He has published two books and is currently working on his third, “Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America.” The book, which will be available around Cinco de Mayo of next year, explores the history of Mexican food in the United States, from Taco Bell to lunch trucks.

Arellano’s accomplishments, though many, are not limited to his books or articles. His real success is measured by continually inspiring others to seek the truth and pursue their dreams. “I know what we have accomplished and I know we’re just going to continue on that same path,” he said.

Restaurant Review: Juquila

After a week of midterms, I hopped on line 1 of the Santa Monica Big Blue Bus, to find a hole in the wall to satisfy my hunger. “Tener hambre de león” (to be hungry as a lion), is how the saying goes in Latin America, and it suits the hunger I had. My intentions were to find the restaurant Churros Calientes, but traffic on Santa Monica Blvd just made me hungrier.  I decided to get off early.

I got off at Federal Ave and Santa Monica; in less than a block I found an Oaxaqueña restaurant called Juquila.  This restaurants claim to serve “authentica comida Oaxaqueña,” in other words the original food from the state of Oaxaca, Mexico.

The environment was calming and the perfect place to have a relaxing dinner and sobremesa (conservation with friends).  I ordered a Camaron a la Diabla (Spicy Shrimp) served with Mexican rice, beans, guacamole, and pico de gallo with a burrito style tortillas (handmade).

This dish was so fiery, that it can blaze your tongue.  Warning to readers, I love chile, and ordered the spicier option because I love when food makes you sizzle inside and to me it was delicious.  If you cannot handle that much heat, they have a milder option too.  The sauce of the Camarones a la Diabla was consistent, not too watery or too thick.

The rice was fluffy and the beans were perfectly mashed.  The guacamole was just avocados mashed with a hint of garlic, served with pico de gallo if you want to mix it together.  I like it separated because I just wanted the creamy texture of the avocados to help balance the spiciness of the Camarones.

I noticed most of usual clients ordered Parrillada Oaxaqueña.  This dish is a combination of oaxacan meats brought to you in a small grill with grilled chiles, onions, and black beans.

Unfortunely, I was not able to try it, since I was full with my dish.  Next time, it is on my Food bucketlist.

Juqila Restaurant is located at 11619 Santa Monica Blvd, West Los Angeles CA 90025. For more information, please visit their website.

If you are a UCLA student, take the SMC Big Blue Bus 1 or 2

Price: $: Comida Cómodo

Con Amor, la boquisabrosa,

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Restaurant Review: Gloria’s Café

A popular place to get your Latin Fusion is Gloria’s Café.  Gloria’s Café, a fusion of Mexican and Salvadorian cuisine, was pretty packed the Sunday afternoon I visited.

I ordered the homemade guacamole, as a starter.  It was creamy, as guacamole should be, but I disappointed at the size–it appeared to be just a scoop. For $4, that seems unfair.

Pupusas filled with pork and cheese

My main course was two pupusas revueltas, and two Mexican tamales.  I loved the enormous pupusas, which were about  5 inches in diameter. The pupusas revueltas were made of a corn masa (dough) filled with pork and cheese. The buttery crunchy texture of the dough complimented the cheesy, soft, meaty center.

Chicken with red salsa filled Tamales

However, the Mexican chicken tamales were dry. The red salsa had no flavor and did not provide enough juiciness. The chicken was arid, and it even overwhelmed the dryness of the holey masa.  When I think of Mexican chicken tamales, green sauce usually pops up, but they served the tamales with red salsa, which cut my cravings for it.

I invited a guest, to critique Gloria’s Café.  Susana Figueroa, a 4th-year international development studies student, is too familiar with the restaurant business, having working about seven years in multiple position such as waitress to kitchen aid.

She ordered the Salvadorian Plato Tipico.  This dish is served with one pupusa, yuca frita (fried yucca plant root), chicarron (fried pork rinds), curtido (pickled cabbage salad), platanos (fried bananas), rice and black beans.

Plato Tipico serve one pupusa, yucca frita , chicaron, curtido, platoons, rice and black beans.

La Boquisabrosa: “What did you like about the plate?”

Susana: “I like that it had a huge variety of food, and I like that I didn’t have to order a extra side of platanos, because it came with it.”

LB: “Do you like the plate?”
S: “Yes, I really like the plate.”
LB: “I know that you are half-Salvadorian.  Was the plate true to Salvadorian roots, or did [restaurant] play with it, since it is a fusion restaurant?”
S: “The [menu] said it was typical Salvadorian…[it] was true to what I’ve grown up with, the platanos, the pupusas, the beans, were all normal. And the yucca–that I’ve never tried before–was a good first time. It was really good.”
LB: “So do you recommend people to going there for a true Salvadorian plate?”

S: “Yes.”

Overall, my guest and I agree that Gloria’s Café is a delectable place for Salvadorian food and not so yummy on the Mexican side dishes.

Rating: $: Comida Cómodo

Gloria’s Café Website

Con Amor, la boquisabrosa,


P.S.  I am in the quest to find the perfectly yummy and true Salvadorian restaurant and any Latino or Latino-inspired restaurant.  If you know of a place, please feel to email me at [email protected]