Does it ever cross your mind what the burrito’s origin story is in every bite? How did someone invent this kind of wrapped food to get to market? Who thought of a loaded wrapped tortilla that you can eat with your hands — and even as a quick supper on the go? The burrito, it turns out, has a fascinating backstory. Continue reading to learn about the burrito story, who (or what) gave it its name, and how it grew into today’s favourite meal.
Creation of Tortilla
Let’s go back in time for a moment.
Spanish conquistadors landed in what is now Mexico in 1519. They brought pigs and wheat bread. Before the arrival of the Spanish, the original Aztec Indians ate maise and supplemented it with meat, fruit, and vegetables.
The northern regions of the northern Mexican states of Sonora and Chihuahua were different. These are regions where wheat thrives while corn struggles. Many Spanish people arrived in these areas following the conquistadors and planted wheat. As a result, it’s reasonable to assume that an anonymous 19th-century hamlet invented a flour tortilla in Sonora or Chihuahua.
Using a flour tortilla, someone wrapped the tortilla with meat shortly afterwards. Nobody knows for sure, but the theory is that this dish was named after the form of the bedrolls carried on the backs of burros, the local pack animals.
On the other hand, the burrito did not appear in literature until 1895, when it was defined as a “rolled tortilla with meat and other food within” in a Spanish language dictionary.
The existence of rolled food in 1895 debunks the famous legend of a guy called Juan Mendez selling tacos from a street stall in Ciudad Juarez during the Mexican Revolution (1910–1921). He is claimed to have taken his materials from his house to the stand on a donkey (burro).
He wrapped the contents in a flour tortilla to keep them warm and realised that this was a superior method to serving his meat, rice, and sauce. It’s improbable that Juan Mendez invented the burrito based on the dictionary article, whether he sold them on a donkey cart or had anything to do with their popularity.
Although this narrative seems intriguing, it is most likely false. The burrito as we know it now is described and compared to a taco in an 1895 item in the Diccionario de Mexicanismos. Because this dish was so famous in Guanajuato, many people believe it originated there. In addition, some believe the wrapped tortilla resembles donkey ears or the rolled bags carried by burros, and hence accept this as the word’s origin.
The original Mexican burritos were tiny and thin, and they are still eaten in Mexico today. They’re made up of essential items like meat, fish, cheese, beans, rice, and fiery peppers – but never all of them at once, only one or two.
Around the 1940s and 1960s, migrant labourers from Mexico most likely brought burritos to the US. The flavourful food captivated Americans and burrito taquerias sprang up all across Southern California in the following decades.