It is said that during the Mexican Revolution, a vendor named Juan Méndez used to ride a donkey through the streets of Juarez CityChihuahua, sold a peculiar preparation: huge flour tortillas wrapped and stuffed with beans and various ingredients, people began to call them “burritos”.
Its legend has crossed borders, it is one of the dishes that identify Mexico in the world, it will even be present at SoFi Stadium, during Super Bowl LVI, where barbecue burritos prepared by a chef with Zacatecas roots will be offered.
In an interview, maestro Sebastián Amaro, professor at the Universidad del Claustro de Sor Juana, explains that, like many other dishes, burritos also have a story about their origin that is closer to myth.
The specialist details that, according to popular opinion, this dish was created by Juan Méndez to offer something cheap, vast, easy to eat without cutlery or plates, for immediate consumption. By folding that large flour tortilla, the heat was saved.
Several versions also circulate about the origin of its name, they say that it began to be called that because it can be easily moved, like a burrito carrying its things; or because it looks like the rolled blankets that the donkeys carried.
However, its history does not begin precisely with the legend of the vendor on a donkey, since before the Mexican Revolution a dish with that name was already consumed, as stated in the Dictionary of Mexicanisms published by Félix Ramos i Duarte in 1898, where it is located in Guanajuato and is described as a “rolled tortilla, with meat or something else inside, which in Yucatan they call codzito and in Cuernavaca and Mexico, taco”.
Where are burritos actually from?
The burritos are popular in the south of the United States, the teacher Sebastián Amaro explains that there are even those who consider that it originates from that country, however, “due to the characteristics of the dish it is clearly northern”.
In Baja California, machaca burritos are customary; in Sinaloa, those of chilorio or mochomos; in Sonora, those of Chile, machaca in sauce or with egg, although The little Larousse Gastronomique He places it as a “Mexican specialty originating from Ciudad Juárez (Chihuahua), on the border with the United States.”
According to him Encyclopedic dictionary of Mexican gastronomysometimes they call it just burro or burrita and “originally it was a meal for workers, peasants and cowboys that was accompanied with black coffee or soda.”
Tijuana or Juarez innovation? In the article Exquisiteces de la barbarie, Elsa Aranda Pastrana, a researcher at the Autonomous University of Ciudad Juárez, states that, despite the controversy, “whatever its origin, the burrito has settled to stay in the city and be part of the regional identity”.
The teacher describes that with the incorporation of women into the labor market and changes in labor dynamics that made it impossible to go home to eat at noon, this preparation began to proliferate as part of the fast food regional in Ciudad Juarez.
Each place has its own variants, although the base is beans and some stew wrapped in flour tortillas.
Hermosillo, for example, is known as the place where the northern percheron donkey: sobaquera flour tortilla, so called because it is so large that it reaches from the hand to the armpit, stuffed with grilled meat, cheese, guacamole, tomato, vegetables, green chili and sauces.
In the city they are famous Donkeys of the 7where they prepare a stuffed donkey from another donkey and it weighs the same as a baby: about three kilos with 300 grams.
Sebastián Amaro describes burritos as a practical dish, you can have anything: chicken, vegetarian, beef, fish, shrimp, “surely because of their practicality, North Americans, appealing to their taste and flavor, also ended up ‘North Americanizing’ the flavor.”