Roberto German 00:01
Welcome to Our Classroom. In this space, we talk about education, which is inclusive of, but not limited to what happens in schools. Education is taking place whenever and wherever we are willing to learn. I am your host, Roberto German. And Our Classroom is officially in session. Grace and Peace. Welcome back to Our Classroom. It's not Taco Tuesday, but we are talking Taco Literacy. I'm joined today by Steven Alvarez, an associate professor of English at St. John's University. He specializes in literacy studies and bilingual education with a focus on Mexican immigrant communities. Dr. Alvarez teaches courses ranging from autobiographical writing, ethnographic methods, creative writing, and taco literacy, of course, exploring the food waves of Mexican immigrants in the United States. Dr. Alvarez is the author of Brokering Tareas: Mexican Immigrant Families Translanguaging Homework Literacies and Community Literacies en Confianza: Learning from Bilingual After-school Programs. Dr. Alvarez is also the author of three books of poetry. His book, The Codex Mojaodicus, was the winner of the 2016 Fence Modern Poets Prize. With us today, Steven Alvarez. Peace, peace, peace, people. Yes. Welcome back. And today I'm with Steven Alvarez. Thank you, sir, for joining me. I am excited to hear about your experiences and to dig into taco literacy, which is somewhat of a new term for me. I mean, I've been checking out some of your content following stuff on Twitter and-- and other pages. But I'm- I-I still have room to grow in terms of my own taco literacy, even though I did live in Austin, Texas for seven years. I-- you know, I've been able to explore the-- the scene out there. But in following some of your work, I've come to an understanding that there's much more than meets the eye when it comes to taco literacy, and there's also a lot of history and culture connected to it that many folks might not necessarily know about. And so, I'm eager to learn from you, Steven, and I'm glad that you could join me today in Our Classroom.
Steven Alvarez 02:45
Well, thank you for having me. I'm honored to be here and to share the love of Mexican food ways and Mexican people with your audience and hopefully bring it back to the classroom.
Roberto German 02:53
Absolutely. I-I got love from my Mexican folks seven years in Texas. You know, I'm-- I met a lot of people from Mexico, from Sonora, from Cuidad Mexico, from Juarez. Lot of folks from all over the place. And it-- it is interesting learning about all the differences in Mexico and, you know, I'll-- you know, I think sometimes things are painted mainstream wise that like, alright, you know, like, well, there's just Mexico and everything's the same, but even when it comes to tacos, right? And-- and taco culture. All these places have their-- their differences and their nuance and their flavor and their history and their culture that they-- they bring to it. So-- so let's-- let's dig right in. You teach taco literacy at-- at St. John's University in New York. What is taco literacy and why should people be interested in this topic?
Steven Alvarez 03:55
I think if you actually just go back to what you described as your experience in Texas, which used to be Mexico and before, you know, Texas was its own country too. And that's the place where you say the immigrants came in and took over. That's what happens, as they say, when they come in, they're gonna take over. But in the meantime, there was, you know, that-- that-- there's that history, but the way you describe being around Mexican people, first and foremost. And through us, you learn about our food because you can't love the food if you don't love us. And when you love the us, you'll love the food more too. And the same thing-- the thing about literacy, I don't think about literacy as something people have or don't have because that'll dehumanize the people who are "illiterate", that we have literacy practices and the practices are expressions of our genius not to be measured by scholastic aptitude necessarily, but by kind of knowledge that's transmitted sometimes to children through ancestors, through food, through rituals, through song, and through artwork. Well, so the way I think about language is it's a-a mode of expression of our genius. And I think about food as the same way. But it always comes back to people, people, and social relationships and how we form communities, how we make ourselves stronger, how we sustain ourselves. And so for taco literacy, and I should preface this, that my research was initially in bilingualism among Mexican Americans and Mexican immigrants in New York City, but also in Kentucky. And so when I started doing this research, you know, I was helping little kids with their homework. And when you're helping little kids with their homework, especially English language homework and the moms can't really do that, and they see you. They see you the way they see their kids, and you see them and-- and-- and it's a way of a connection where moms wanna bring me food, they wanna bring me tamales. And-- and the dads too. Sometimes the dad, the-- the division of labor. The dads did the grilling, the carne asada and the mom does some other kind of work, but they both--
Roberto German 05:33
Steven Alvarez 05:35
But it was always this idea that we're making community, we see you because you see us, and these-- this food is an expression of what I can give you. And this food has ancestry behind it, it has tradition, it has knowledge, it has technique, but most importantly, it was made by my hands for you as a kind of thanks. And I also theorize this as the kind of confianza. That's the way we develop community and we develop confianza, we eat with, people we trust and people we know we can have confidence in as well. And so to-- to bring it all back together, the-- the taco literacy for me was really thinking about the stuff I was initially trying to do with literacy studies and having this idea, it was really a breakthrough that food and food ways have very similar techniques of thinking about literacy, knowledge, the transmission of knowledge and the way we can think about the way we can read a culture in this way. But more importantly for me, I guess, the way I was thinking about another avenue for scholars of literacy, to think about the knowledges our students bring from their communities. So to really start thinking about like family recipes, family foods, rediscovering those foods, thinking about diet, foodways and production, and also marketing. I mean, there's so much rich material for us who are language arts teachers to really consider. And so I think I was trying to make the connections, what I saw in literacy and what I saw in foodways. And when I realized you can do all this with the taco and read a taco and it branches out in all these directions. But again, ultimately comes back to Mexican people.
Roberto German 06:56
That's beautiful. That's beautiful. When-- when you see-- you-- you had said something along the lines of "When you-- when you see us or when you see me, you see them." No, I'm paraphrasing, but can you say that again 'cause I thought that's-- that's an important point for us to stick with.
Steven Alvarez 07:14
Yeah, I can-- I can give you the—the-- the story that I remember, and maybe it's best to talk-- to describe this as a story.
Roberto German 07:19
Steven Alvarez 07:20
So I was a graduate student at City University in New York. And my research was a-- an afterschool program organized by Mexican-- Mexican people, Poblanos, people from Puebla. It was the church basement. There was no funding in the wintertime. People were wearing blankets, there was sometimes mice running on the floor. But every week, three times a week, families were bringing their little kids to make sure that they got mentors who were bilingual to help 'em with their homework. And so, because it was cold, moms were bringing, champulado, it was a kind of hot atole chocolate and they would bring food. And for me, going for several years became my book called Brokering Tareas SUNY Press. When I was there, it was of course, a lot of times when we have celebrations and food would be involved. And always there would be special packages families would make for me. But there was one mom in particular and I remember she would give me these tamales, of course, I'm a starving graduate student and I would just eat 'em right there. And the-- the smile of satisfaction on her face watching me eat and enjoy myself was a way for her to say, "Now I finally know a way that I can thank him. And I know he's really appreciating." She was always telling me, thank you, shaking my hand and everything. But I think she felt like maybe she didn't show me enough that she saw me, what I was doing with her kid. I was volunteering. And so when I saw, you know, later on upon reflection, I started thinking like that, that tamale was a tamale but at that tamale was also love that was in my hands to you. And thank you, thank you for seeing us.
'Cause we-- many of those families living in the shadows as it were, people didn't see them and never saw them, there were too many times to be dehumanized. But something about food that links us is a common humanity. And to humanize one another, that is to say, that, you know, there's so many people who say things about Mexican folks. You know, you're in Texas, whole country, right? Any Latinx or any immigrants rather, right? But when you see somebody eye to eye and you see their face, when they're no longer faceless, it's so hard to dehumanize them. It's almost impossible unless you're heartless. And I believe most of this people in this country, despite all their problems right now, we have heart and we will-- we will-- we will accept people if we see their humanity. We see that natural disasters and things all the time. And so for me, it was the-- the humanizing factor, and what I saw in the research I was doing was all about people and the kind of generation of confianza I was describing before.
Roberto German 09:32
Yeah, that's-- that's awesome. That's awesome. And essential, essential for us to see each other to-- to be in proximity to-- to value each other as human beings and to grown in community and I'm hearing a lot of focus on community here in-- in what you're sharing. And so let-- let's talk about taquería because taquería are, think you wanna, we see taquería and all types of communities all across the country. And so how are taquería more than just about tacos regardless of where you are in the United States?
Steven Alvarez 10:04
Sure. I mean, first off, that you use the term taquería and how that becomes a part of the English parlance. 'Cause, you know, put it this way, one of my lessons for students is we look at Google maps and then we look up the word tacos and then you see all the-- the sites that pop up and you're gonna get like Taco Bell of course, and you're gonna get some of those chains, right? But when you change the term the Spanish, and you look up the taquería, you look up Mercado, then you're gonna see where the Mexican folks live…
Roberto German 10:29
Steven Alvarez 10:30
...outside the center of the city, right? So you'll see all the places that are named in Spanish. And that's also gonna be things where you'll see like Taquería Jalisco, Taquería Sinaloense. Like you said before, different regions bring their different traditions. 'Cause just like we were thinking about United States, there's southern food, there's Midwest food, there's food from the Rockies, which mean different ingredients, growing in different places. There's different traditions of migration patterns. Same thing with Mexico in the sense that a taco that you would get in Jalisco would be very different than a taco you might get from Puebla. Very different ingredients, different climates, different history, different patterns of migration. So when you start looking at taqueria, you can start first narrowing it down to the Mexican community. If wherever you live, whatever your city, regardless in this country, I used to live in Kentucky, you will find taqueria in the Hollerer. I'm talking like an Appalachia and those Chicanos over there, the Appalachia Chicanos over there, serio. What you start to see is that, for example, you start to see the Mexican community on one thing. And then the-- the sheer diversity in the Mexican community where people are coming from all different areas. So you start to learn more about migration patterns, history of the foods. But here's the trick, if you really wanna know community, you gotta start talking to folks. And sometimes, you know, folks will speak English especially if you spend money, you know. And I feel like once you start learning about your taqueros and your taqueras is when you start really understanding why people come here. And also, like I mentioned before, the-- the mom who had that huge smile on her face when I was enjoying my food. And to be able to hear a taquero and their pure joy and passion they have for the job, it's-- it's really inspiring. And it's also one of those kinda jobs where, you know, I feel like it can become an very-- very easy to become an art form if you see a really talented taquero. And so for me, I guess the-- the best way we could bring it all back together is that a taqueria and the taco itself has layers of history, has layers of meaning.
It has linguistic aspects. You can look up the etymology of words, for example, which is also a fun thing to do 'cause you'll find words that have-- their origin comes from Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs, like avocado, for example, tomato-- yeah, absolutely. Not-- not-- not a lot of words come from Europe, you know. But-- but also in this case, you could start to think about, right, well this taco is like delicious and there has like aspects of ingredients, but there's, how'd you say, there's so much more to examine in a taco. And if you examine the taco, you-- you-- you, ultimately you examine people. And really the wealth of our nation food ways wise is-- is wondering about the abundance of food that we've had. But it's also the people who have come to this country who have transformed the food radically. Every immigrant group has contributed to what this country is where our mainstream American food, so to speak.
Roberto German 13:02
Steven Alvarez 13:03
So to speak that even Mexican food where you-- fajitas or like nachos, you can go to a sports bar and you can get those now. And so that becomes quintessentially a kind of an American food as well. And the taco, you know, there are American kind of tacos and so we could talk more about that. But then the taco then takes on the-- the nature of where it travels because the people travel with it.
Roberto German 13:21
That's great. That's great. You know, talking about words, one of my favorite words that I picked up while I lived in Texas was washateria.
Steven Alvarez 13:32
Yeah, it's funny. Yeah.
Roberto German 13:35
We were out there and we like, washateria. I'm like, yo, they're really working it, you know. We work in the-- the dictionary out here. I love it. I love. You know, la-- last week, Lorena, myself, and Tiffany Jewel, we were just, you know, working on exercise. Like, hey, you know, let's-- let's make up a new word today. Everybody take a turn. And that-- that's cool. My-- every time I think of the term washateria like soft spot for my people, my Mexicanos que estan en Tejas.
Steven Alvarez 14:05
Yeah. You know, but I live here in New York and there's words lonchear, parquear. And this is the Boricua, right? So this is what we do, you know. We-- we take the words and-- and also the next generation sometimes because they're bilingual.
Roberto German 14:16
Steven Alvarez 14:16
And beautiful about this is when you're bilingual, poetry becomes natural to you. You know you can play with language, you can have fun, you can laugh at it, you can come up with new words just by the way they sound. You can combine two different languages that have two different sound systems to come up with something that's inherently new and poetic and beautiful.
Roberto German 14:33
Steven Alvarez 14:34
Sandwich, ta igual. And then check this out. And in Mexico, I go to Mexico, and then, you know, I'm hanging out with my cousins and they wanna go buy some chelas, or beers. And they call it a un six. Which I'm like, all right.
Roberto German 14:51
That's great. That's great. All right. So what are your thoughts on the relationship between politics, immigration policies, and the rise of taco culture in different places around the country?
Steven Alvarez 15:05
You know, well this is where it gets kinda complicated. 'Cause I'm thinking about number 45 when he came down the escalator and the very first group he pointed out, he is talking about Mexicans. You know, my gente he says they're bringing drugs, they're bringing rapists, excuse me, they're bringing drugs, they're bringing rapists and some of them I assume are good people.
Roberto German 15:24
Steven Alvarez 15:25
I have to bring that part back. It's like, well, you know, all of them are good people and some might be bringing drugs and some might be rapists too, but you can't-- the projection was like, I assume some are good people, but the idea was like to dehumanize is faceless, massive people who are coming in hoards to take over our country. And I already described Texas earlier before but the thing about that--
Roberto German 15:44
That-- that could be a whole podcast episode, right?
Steven Alvarez 15:47
Oh yeah. There's many podcasts and books about all this for sure. But, you know, I-I guess what I would to get at this is that this-- the immigration is such a hotly politicized issue that it's so easy to slip into an us and them dichotomy. And the them is always a faceless dehumanized-- dehumanized mass of criminals who are coming to invade for some politicians, right? In the meantime, there is the separation of families as a policy. There is a kind of inherent degradation of people who are undocumented and exploited in this country when all they ever came here because they want a dream. Because they believe in what this country has taught the whole world. That this country-- people come to this country because they love this country and what this country has promised people for generations. They leave where they're coming from for a reason. And what's very strange about this is sometimes immigrants say, "Why don't you just love us the way we love you?" And we-- all we came here is 'cause we wanna make this place better too. You know? And so to really start thinking about this in terms of tacos, because even the people who really dislike Mexicans, they love our food.
Roberto German 16:53
Steven Alvarez 16:54
Yeah. Sometimes the most racist ones love our food so much. Alright? This guy, Tucker Carlson was calling tacos American food. I'm like, "Hold on, Tucker."
Roberto German 17:02
Yeah. Slow down. Slow down. Well, how-- how are we defining American?
Steven Alvarez 17:06
You know? Exactly. But, you know, and-- and-- and so to get at this, it's just this idea that, all right, you can't love the food if you don't love the people. 'Cause that's an expression of the people. And in fact, the food tastes much better if you love us. So the rise of taco culture, you know, all these people- and definitely I would give a lot of credit to Anthony Bourdain for this and some of those food folks who really were likable, and they were going and getting the stories and making sure that the people who were in the shadows had a spotlight on them and making sure they used their platform to give a spotlight to immigrant folks as chefs and as cooks with dignity. That did a lot for folks who start thinking about, you know, our immigrant neighbors, they're doing some really cool things in their kitchens. They're not just cheap food. Cheap eats where you go and pop in and you leave. But more like, I wanna know more about your culture and I can learn more about your culture through your food and I can learn through your food but hopefully learn more about your culture as well and your history. And then ostensibly why you came to this country and what this country has done and how it's transformed. And so the-- the politics, on one hand, are anti-immigrant, but through food is sometimes a way to reach people who have those kind of leanings. And so I prefaced this back because when I first arrived, University of Kentucky, my very first job, I wasn't doing food ways. I was teaching a class. So University of Kentucky is in Lexington, Kentucky. But-- and there's a barrio where the horse farms are called Mexington. And guess, who lives there?
And so anyway, I was teaching a class called Mexican Kentucky, and I was inviting dreamers to class and we were looking at immigration policy, faith-based community aspects of like resistance and-- and social, how do you say, social resistance, but also like ways where people were doing like activist work. So social-- religious activist work. Anyway, some of the students weren't going for it. This is before Trump. And they had a hard time really kind of reasoning about like, folks who come here and don't get in line. This is Kentucky. So the race lines were like black and white and having brown folks in between, it was kind of complicated. You know, because there was black folks who didn't understand it, white folks didn't understand it as well. And it was kind of a complicated divisive issue. Well, the very semester I took the students around the barrio and went to the cowboy store and all these places like that. And I took 'em tocos and a taqueria and everything was in Spanish. And they saw things on the menu like cestos, lengua, carnitas. And they had only ever been there like Q’doba or something like this, right? And all of a sudden they were just like amazed. And the-- they made the corn, excuse me, the corn came from a farm not too far from the taqueria. And they've made their own nixtamal tortillas there. So Kentucky corn tortilla is delicious. And the students had all these questions like, how do they make these tortillas? Where does this come from? How do they do this? And then I realized like, oh, now they're curious about us. Before the immigration policy stuff was not making them interested. They wanna know about this food. And I realized NAFTA is the reason why this food is here. The Mexican people are the reason this food is here. The immigration policies are the reason why these people are here. And I realize if I go through Mexican food, I can reach their hearts and hopefully transform the way they think about us. Because the push-- the immigration issue is so politicized and divergent. It's hard to serve one side where you go to find people to meet halfway in the middle and have those conversations. And hopefully, you see that this food is really about people first and foremost. And so the-- the idea is like taking something very political and bringing it to something that folks can see that they already love, but realizing that the thing that they love has been decontextualized from the people. And then our job in the classroom is making sure we bring it back to the people so they can see the food has dignity, but more importantly the people have dignity.
Roberto German 20:35
Yeah, you're gonna need to make a t-shirt that says you can't love the food if you don't love the people.
Steven Alvarez 20:40
Hey, I mean, to me, that's the mantra of my class. That's what taco literacy is. And that goes for every kind of food there is. Once the food gets decontextualized from people as like, let's say fast food, then you start to lose the tradition of the African American culinary tradition, Jewish food ways. I mean all the different groups that came in to make this country what it is. We all brought that stuff with us, but first and foremost, we came as people.
Roberto German 21:03
You know what I appreciate about your approach and I'm not sure I haven't seen this a lot on the higher ed level, but you're talking about reaching their hearts, right? Because you're working on the higher ed level. That's seems to be a more common talk amongst K through 12 educators. I just, I-I haven't. Maybe-- maybe folks are talking like that on higher ed level, but I haven't heard it as much, and so.
Steven Alvarez 21:27
You know, maybe that might be the case. But also like a lot of my work, my research 'cause I was working with families and afterschool programs was at K through 12 and there was folks I believe that, you know, folks, you know, like Django Paris and David Kirkland, and they're the ones that really got me and started thinking about listening to Yolanda C Reese, how to listen with my heart and how to think of myself as literacy of the heart. And of course, we have folks like Paulo Fred. And most importantly for me, I'm, you know, the first one in my family to go to college. My mom came from Mexico. My father, well, his father came during a Mexican revolution a while back. And for me, I do this stuff because it wasn't until I went to college that I really got learn how to love myself about that part of my culture. I grew up in Arizona and they do a number on making you hate yourself as a Mexican. I mean, I feel like the whole country is Arizona these days sometimes. But for me, it was the liberation I had when I got to read Mexican-American authors and I got to read and learn about myself and take Mexican-American studies. And most importantly, I went to Arizo-- University of Arizona, I went-- like south side Tucson I had real tacos. I'm talking from Sonora. And I was all of a sudden was like, "Whoa, what is this?" And I went back and asked my family, "Can you teach me more about this?" I came back to my family, but only because I went to college. You see what I'm saying? And that for me, it was something that was really beautiful because it changed my life so much so that here I am a professor now, you know. And-- and for me, I'm very genuine when I bring this to my classroom about how education transformed my life and also potentially how it can transform others. But it's also not something that's just about the head, it's about the heart to you. They go in tandem.
Roberto German 23:00
Steven Alvarez 23:01
The best part about me that, you know, in my classes, is I love teaching. I mean, give me-- academia higher ED itself, not always my bag. But when it comes to the students, and especially when I have students of color, the Latin, Latinx students, and the Mexican-American, American students because we never get to feel our, you know, sometimes we don't get to feel that we're in the center of the stage. And for me to make it a point that you know, we-- we teach authors of color, we focus on scholars of color. So this way students can understand that we have traditions too.
Roberto German 23:29
That's deep. That's deep. I love it. I love it. And thanks for sharing a little bit of your story in terms of how going to college inspired you to go back to your family and learn more about your family history. And also for stressing the point and the importance of seeing yourself reflected in the curriculum. Which is something I'm actually gonna be talking about, you know, in the next couple days at a conference. So thank you for sharing that. In your recent CNBC interview, you stated, "Rather than look for what's authentic, let's just look for what's there." What did you mean by that?
Steven Alvarez 24:07
Oh, this thing about, like, people looking for "authentic Mexican food" is problematic for all the various ways. And I'll say it because sometimes what happens, especially with, like, the rise of food journalism and food bloggers and things, it might be people going into immigrant neighborhoods, going to get cheap eats, try to find something, you know, that seems "authentic." Usually it means going to a place where the people speak a different language, neighborhood, sort of like outside the city-- city center and where things, you know, where they can feel like there's not a lot of white people. That is an authentic experience. In the meantime, they'll-- they get their food and they leave. Get their food, take their picture and take off. Parachute in and parachute out. And so that is problematic for all kinds of reasons that that's their form of authenticity. Like, let's go see what it's like to eat like an immigrant for a little while, to have an authentic immigrant experience. Meanwhile, we're gonna go back home. So this is what I'm saying, sometimes this quest for authenticity, you-- you're never gonna find a "original." It's just, it's not there. It doesn't exist, which you'll find our folks who are making constructions of what is authentic, right? But really if you just go and meet your neighbors, talk to them like that food is authentic. And it may be born in Texas, born and raised in Texas, but that's authentic too. Even to a degree, I think the Taco Bell taco is authentic in its own. Authentically American fast food, but authentic in its own way, you know? And so even that taco has a kind of value, a way of understanding what it means. And so the larger question was like getting away from this notion of authenticity and starting thinking about like doing the exploration tp find out what makes your place unique where you live. And that's a little bit of a different question. Unique rather than authentic.
Roberto German 25:43
So your issue is more of the approach?
Steven Alvarez 25:47
I think so. You know what I mean? Because when folks have this idea of authenticity, it doesn't mean they get to really know their neighbors, and doesn't always necessarily seem, they get to know the people behind the food. Because if you go into a neighborhood, it's very different in spending time there or going into your own neighborhood and getting to know your own neighborhood. Let me bring this back to a sort of another example where this kinda became very clear for me. When I was doing my research with that after school program, many of the students you know, they lived in the barrio, but their teachers were white and the teachers didn't live in the barrio. Like they would never live in the barrio, right? They would come in and teach and they go back to where they live, right? And so I was reaching out to these teachers and I realized I was spending more time in this barrio than these teachers. Like, I'm not just talking about in the classroom, I'm talking about like going around to the grocery stores, like checking out the thrift stores and all the things. Like that is something that folks weren't necessarily doing so much so that people in the community were saying hello to me when I was walking down the street. And so there's a different way of an approach where you can-- you know, you can come in and have the food, but if you get to know the people and people get to know you, it's a very different rich experience. So sometimes this authenticity can be a thing where folks just wanna have the food, but don't get to know the people or the community.
Roberto German 26:55
No, that's real. That's real. And-- and in the spirit of transparency, I-I've definitely have used that language in the past and especially in thinking of the context of the local spots, the mom and pop spots versus a Taco Bell. And-- and I heard you talk about it in the documentary. I'm like, "Listen, I'm still not messing with Taco Bell." But for me, you know, part-- part of my thing is like, I-I like connecting with people. I like hearing and understanding their stories. It's-- I guess you use the term exploration, you know, and part of it for me is-- is exploring the culture, the people obviously through the food, but at the end of the day getting to understanding of how'd you end up here? Wh-- you know, why-- why did you end up here? Why this particular spot, right? I'm from Lawrence, Massachusetts. I'm Dominican American, born and raised, Lawrence, Massachusetts. I don't know if you've been in Lawrence, but like, when--when folks ask me where I'm from and I tell 'em, I'm like, "Yeah, I'm from Lawrence, Massachusetts. It has the highest population of Dominicans outside of New York City." They're always like, "What?" Like blown away. I'm like, "Yeah." It blows me away too. I don't know why they picked that spot. I mean, I do. I do.
Steven Alvarez 28:17
Yeah. Yeah. I know what you mean. I know what you mean.
Roberto German 28:19
When I think about migration patterns, I'm like, wow. Of all places all the way up there? Where it's mad cold and it's-- yo, we Dominican.
Steven Alvarez 28:28
You'd be surprised. You know, I mean, Mexican is a similar way, you know, different numbers. But like some of the biggest places for population growth are in the-- The Dakotas like Wyoming. Like, it's places where Mexicans haven't been, but we're still going now, you know? And it also has to do with the industries that surround. And so it's-- it's really interesting to think about, like, more-- you know, not only were folks-- put it this way, the-- I believe the second largest, the third largest Mexican population in the country is in Chicago. And they've been there longer. Ooh, that must have been some rough winters from the people that came from Jalisco up there. But now that's who they are. They are a Chicago Mexican community and they're large. And there's many folks, you know, with kids who grow up there who never go to Mexico and they'll identify as Chicago Mexican in the same way you're describing be-- to be Dominican in New York is very different to be Dominican, Massachusetts, to be from Dominican in Florida. And the food changes too. And the food changes too. So that so much so that that cuisine that was Dominican has a little bit different flavor in New York, has a little bit different flavor in Massachusetts and also in Florida. And also where the different groups were around them as well.
Roberto German 29:34
Absolutely. Absolutely. All right, so always fun part of the interview. If you had an opportunity to have a taco where any author, dead or alive, who would it be and why? Also, what kind of taco would you order?
Steven Alvarez 29:50
Oh, you know, maybe I can change the question around a little bit. 'Cause you know, like we Mexicans we like to get like a celebration, we don't always just get one taco. Instead, we have a carne asada, we have a barbecue, and then we're gonna have a carne asada. So we're gonna have a carne asada. We're gonna do Sonora style. And when you have a carne asada, you know, you gotta invite a group of people. So I'm gonna be like, all right, who are the authors I wanna have in my at my carne asada? Well, the first one probably James Baldwin. Yeah. You know, probably Tony Morrison. Pretty, pretty good. Octavia Butler, Philip K. Dick. I throw in-- he'd be kind of awkward, but I bring in Samuel Beckett. He's probably just by himself in the corner over here. And then I think probably a couple folks. Let me see. You know Villareal another good Mexican-American. So we need some Mexican folks there too. And probably the last one, I would really love to have a taco or be at the carne asada, would be Anthony Bourdain. God-- God bless. And I feel like that would be a pretty solid-- pretty solid crew to have with carne asada with.
Roberto German 30:41
Wow. That's a lineup. That is a lineup. That's great. That's great. That's awesome. So to those that are listening, what is a message of encouragement you want to offer them?
Steven Alvarez 30:53
Hmm. Keep your heads up. Keep your heads up, keep forward, pa’lante. And when-- and especially as teachers, these-- these are hard-- these are dark times. It's hard times. And to keep your head up sometimes it takes three times as much effort. But the work is always there because we do it for the future. And when you pay it forward, you also realize that if it's hard for us, for the students, it's even harder. And so for us, keeping our heads up, it's kind of like… I get a little emotional. It's a model for what we can do, but what-- what education should be in its best modes.
Roberto German 31:25
Hmm. Beautiful. Beautiful. Thank you, sir. Thank you. Where can folks follow you? You're doing great work. You got numerous books out. I think you got one coming out with Pink, if I remember correctly. Where-- where can folks follow you and what should they be looking for from Steven Alvarez?
Steven Alvarez 31:45
Well, I guess easiest one would be on Instagram at Steven Paul Alvarez. And I have like a Link Tree there and you can find up all the interviews and stuff. And then probably the most recent thing, if you're on Netflix, there is a season three of Taco Chronicles, Taco Chronicles: Cross the Border. And I'm on the New York episode and also the Phoenix episode. Both really touching and-- and that whole series is just great because just like I mentioned before, focus on the people and the stories of Mexicans in USA. So definitely check those out.
Roberto German 32:13
Thank you. Thank you. Appreciate your time. Looking forward to checking out the Phoenix episode. Already saw the New York episode. Looking forward to checking out the rest of it. I appreciate you, appreciate the work that you're doing. Adelante. As always, your engagement in Our Classroom is greatly appreciated. Be sure to subscribe, rate the show, and write a review. Finally, for resources to help you understand the intersection of race bias, education, and society, go to multiculturalclassroom.com. Peace and love from your host, Roberto German.