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Iraq and roll… Tacos arabes

11 December 2007

I was semi-amused, and semi-appalled when the anti-immigration folks hit on Iraqi “illegals” as a convenient way of lumping “terrorists” and “illegal aliens” together. They turned out to be Chaldeans (somewhat protected by the equal opportunity dictator Saddam Hussein and persecuted as a result of our “crusade) headed for Detroit and a future saying “Cheeseburger, cheeseburger, cheeseburger. Pepsi, no Coke.” You know, model illegals.

It worked out OK for those particular guys (a Mexican law from the 1930s gives automatic refugee status to people fleeing Fascist regimes, and Saddam’s regime fit the definition… plus Carlos Slim — of Lebanese Catholic heritage — picked up the tab for a few good lawyers). And, yeah, a lot of Arabs fleeing crappy conditions at home are coming to Mexico. Some are moving on to the United States, and not always on proper documentation. Try getting a green card in Egypt or Syria.

Back in the early 20th century, when the U.S. started restricting immigration to northern Europeans, people getting the hell out of the collapsing Ottoman Empire were not completely S.O.L. “Coming to America” didn’t always means the United States of. The Central American states and Argentina were favored destinations for middle-easterners, though a good number (especially Iraqis and Lebanese) ended up in Mexico. And prospered.

Cindy Casares, at Guanabee (“media, pop culture and entertainment for the spicy Latino in you” — and for the not so boring academic in you as well), notes that one particular Mexican-Iraqi had a huge impact on Mexican culture:

Here’s something those of you who enjoy tacos de trompo are not going to believe. Tacos de trompo or tacos arabes as they’re called in Mexico, (where taco filling is shaved off a beehive shaped lump of meat), were invented by an Iraqi immigrant in Mexico in the 1930’s! Says The Big Apple:

The dish was supposedly first served in the city of Puebla, Mexico, in the 1930s, when an Iraqi immigrant named Jorge Tabe opened an eatery that advertised both “tacos arabes” and “tacos estilo Doneraky.” However, the term “al pastor (shepherd style) [the term used in Texas] pre-dates the 1930s.


“Doneraky” somehow translates to döner kebab which comes from Turkey, another country that’s currently housing a lot of our service people. Can you tell the difference in these pictures? That’s döner kebab on the left. Trompo on the right.

We forget how much “Hispanic” culture and “Arab” culture have in common. The Spanish only showed up in the New World because they were bored after driving the Moors off the Iberian peninsula.

And, in case you haven’t noticed, a disproportionate number of U.S. soldiers have names like Gonzales and Ortega, AND, U.S. culture is slowing assimilating Latin culture. Cindy’s complete “Guide To Latino Cultural Survival in Iraq” puts it all together, and throws in a little salsa — and merangue, and cumbia….

9 Comments leave one →
  1. 13 December 2007 1:34 am

    I deleted a comment here, not because of anything the author said (it was flattering, and made my day), but because it was not really connected to this particular post, but simply the author’s way of contacting me on a personal matter.

  2. 14 December 2007 12:20 pm

    You forgot to mention that the Jews and the Moors also came to the New World early in the game because the Inquisition was going on. My ex-wife’s family is Aldebol {patriarchal side}. That’s Moorish. Also there is a large recently arrived {1970s} group of Middle Easterners in Puerto Rico, especially many Lebanese and Iranians. Rather recent history explains why. I have many friends named Khaddafi or Ibrahim or Fatima, and these are not names from the Moors, the Iberians or the Visigoths, all of whom left a name history in Spain.
    I love your history references.

  3. edgar ramirez permalink
    15 May 2009 3:56 pm

    favor mandeme direccion de tacos arabes en tijuana muchas gracias

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  1. Iraqi illegal aliens in Mexico! Oh my! « The Mex Files
  2. Mexico’s Winter Olympics Team « The Mex Files
  3. Equipo Olímpico Mexicano de Esquí « BAJADOCK: Livin’ My Dreams

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