Racism Forced LA’s Oldest Mexican Restaurants to Call Themselves ‘Spanish’
Excerpt Eater Los Angeles:
Beginning in the 1800s, Los Angeles-based Mexican restaurant owners found themselves stuck between an unforgiving, racialized dining public and a need to make a living, so collectively, they improvised, calling their Mexican-born food — from enchiladas to handmade tortillas to chiles rellenos — Spanish food instead. And in some ways, that historic whitewashing endures. “To identify as Mexican in California during the first part of the twentieth century was a dangerous proposition.
Segregation was enforced in schools, housing, even in swimming pools... In Southern California, an acceptable ethnic alternative was Sonoran, since it was a group of immigrants from that northern Mexico state who had originally settled [in] Los Angeles… The earliest Mexican restaurants in Southern California therefore called themselves Spanish or Sonoran—anything but Mexican.”