Origin of the Taco

Chorizo Taco from Carniceria Guadalajara in Chicago

They may be wildly popular in Mexico, the US and…pretty much everywhere else, but what is the exact origin of the taco? We can assume they are from Mexico, but what beyond that? Though somewhat shrouded in mystery, this Smithsonian Magazine interview with Mexican food expert Jeffrey M. Pilcher, professor of history at the University of Minnesota, talks about the history of the taco.

The origins of the taco are really unknown. My theory is that it dates from the 18th century and the silver mines in Mexico, because in those mines the word “taco” referred to the little charges they would use to excavate the ore. These were pieces of paper that they would wrap around gunpowder and insert into the holes they carved in the rock face. When you think about it, a chicken taquito with a good hot sauce is really a lot like a stick of dynamite. The first references [to the taco] in any sort of archive or dictionary come from the end of the 19th century. And one of the first types of tacos described is called tacos de minero—miner’s tacos. So the taco is not necessarily this age-old cultural expression; it’s not a food that goes back to time immemorial. [Read more here].

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