What unites us? Tacos!
It’s right there under the letter U in Vitamina T for Tacos: “Unidos con los tacos.” All across these 50 states, we are united in our love for tacos. The book is “a children’s alphabet book, taco dictionary and cultural guide.” (“Taco dictionary” is the phrase I’ve been waiting for my whole taco-lovin’ life and didn’t know it.)
This is the right time of the year to celebrate tacos because October 4 is National Taco Day, and September 15 to October 15 is National Hispanic American Heritage Month. It’s a time for bilingual and bicultural kids to celebrate what makes them unique. Vitamina T affirms that Spanglish can be a superpower.
Where I live, in the same state as Vitamina T authors Mando Rayo and Suzanne García-Mateus, I hear a lot of Spanglish. A single sentence swings across borders and occasionally creates new words.
This is not a recent phenomenon. Edna Ferber’s Giant — the bigger-than-life story of my bigger-than-life state, published in 1952 — acknowledges the prevalence of Spanglish:
Just today in the kitchen, that young Domingo Quiroz, Ezequiel’s grandson, was looking at a leaky pipe that needed welding. He said, ‘La paipa está likeando hay que hueldearla.’ That’s the sort of Spanish the kids are speaking.”
That’s not proper Spanish. But neither is the automated attendant that tells phone-callers to “presse” a particular button. Such language adaptations are worthy of examination, and Vitamina T co-author Garcia-Mateus is a professor at California State University-Monterey Bay who studies Spanglish, bilingual education, and bicultural families. She brings the “children’s alphabet book” and “cultural guide” to this picture book.
The other co-author, Mando Rayo, is an author and co-host of the TV show United Tacos of America. He brings the “taco dictionary” expertise. Illustrations of smiling tacos and happy eaters are provided by Martha Samaniego Calderón, from Veracruz, Mexico, who earned a master’s degree in art education from the University of North Texas. She is also an author.
The alphabet includes the Spanish letters Ch, Ll, and Ñ. (Alas, one got away: Rr, which made everyone on the taco team muy triste.) That can happen when you’re ensconced in more than one language.
In every alphabet book, I’m always curious to see how the author renders X. Here, X stands for “México, el país that gave us the taco! Los miXtos, carne or vegetarian, are the best of both mundos.” That is some beautiful Spanglish!
Just in case you live in a taco desert, Vitamina T reminds us that tacos can be made to suit every taste and dietary need. There are breakfast tacos, brisket tacos, barbacoa tacos wrapped in maguey leaves, gluten-free tacos, and fusion tacos (such as “K: Korean BBQ tacos”). And all kinds of ways to fill a vegan taco, especially con aquacate (avocado). Or with Z, which is zanahorias en escabeche (carrots and other pickled veggies with jalapeños). Or add N for nopales (edible cactus). Or O for onions, which make us “llorar y llorar” when we cut them, in whatever lengua we speak.
Vitamina T also taught me new words, including esquites, also known as Mexican corn on the cob, and repollo, which is cabbage, the best part of that Southern California staple, fish tacos.
So pour yourself a glass of horchata (H) or maybe just a large cup of té con limón and plate up the taco of your choice. All you need is 100% amor.
Browse more Children’s Book Club
“Megan Willome has captured the essence of crow in this delightful children’s collection. Not only do the poems introduce the reader to the unusual habits and nature of this bird, but also different forms of poetry as well.”
—Michelle Ortega, poet and children’s speech pathologist
- 50 States of Generosity: Alaska - November 18, 2022
- Children’s Book Club: ‘Queen Elizabeth II: A Little Golden Book Biography’ - November 11, 2022
- Perspective: ‘Charlotte’s Web’ is a Medieval Novel - November 4, 2022