400 Tacos, & Counting
by Melissa Bailey | Jan 26, 2012 4:26 pm
Posted to: Immigrants, Legal Writes
New Haven’s Latino advocates saved one taco for East Haven Mayor Joseph Maturo, Jr. and sent 399 others to people who might appreciate them more—diners at a local soup kitchen.
The delivery came Thursday afternoon at East Haven Town Hall, as Maturo’s now-infamous “taco” remark continued to reverberate across the nation.
Maturo’s off-the-cuff remark came after four of his cops were arrested for allegedly targeting, brutalizing, and falsely arresting Latinos. When a reporter from New York’s WPIX TV asked Maturo what he’d do for the Latino community, Maturo responded, “I might have tacos when I get home.” (Watch it here.) Maturo has since apologized for the remark.
As outrage spread, a national coalition called Reform Immigration for America urged people to text TACO to 69866 to condemn mayor’s remark. The group pledged to send Maturo one taco for each person who texted in support.
As of Thursday afternoon, 2,600 people had sent a taco text.
Around 1:20 p.m., activists showed up at Maturo’s door with aluminum trays carrying the first delivery of 400 tacos.
“These tacos represent every person across America who was disgusted by and condemns your comments,” announced Latrina Kelly, interim head of Junta for Progressive Action, a New Haven-based Latino advocacy group.
Maturo wasn’t there to hear her remarks. He slipped out a back door and was spotted driving off in his city-issued car shortly after 1 p.m., the time of the scheduled delivery.
“He had a meeting,” explained a mayoral staffer, who declined to be named. The meeting was called that same morning, she said. “It wasn’t on his schedule.”
In Maturo’s absence, Junta’s Kelly spoke to a throng of local and national reporters. The press group was so big that it couldn’t fit into the mayor’s office; Kelly had to relocate to the hallway to accommodate the crowd.
“Hopefully, you now know that comments like yours only heighten racial tension, and help explain how the kind of racial intolerance uncovered by the U.S. Justice Department was allowed to take hold in the East Haven police department,” Kelly told Maturo via the cameras.
The tacos were made at a New Haven restaurant; the owner said he wishes to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation. The tacos came with rice and beans inside, with cups of green salsa to go on top. He estimated the number at 400.
One of the deliverers, Ecuadorian organizer and activist Dixon Jimenez, said the mayor’s remarks exposed what he really thinks. “When a person is spontaneous, you see what perception he really has.”
Jiminez called Maturo’s subsequent apology unconvincing. Jimenez called on the mayor to open dialogue with Latino leaders about being more inclusive of the Latinos who live and work in East Haven. An estimated 2,500 Ecuadorians live in the town.
In a written statement, Maturo said the delivery “highlights the need for the town to continue the process of healing and reform” that Maturo claimed he initiated after he was reelected in November. “Events of the past few days have focused our town, and my administration, on the need to deal sensitively and compassionately with the challenges currently facing our town,” he added.
Kelly announced she would save one taco for Maturo and send the rest to New Haven’s Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen. She and other activists left the tacos in a basement room. Maturo’s office pledged to distribute them from there.
Kelly said the tacos represent “a small fraction of the Americans who are offended by your statement.”
“There will be more deliveries,” as text messages continue to roll in, she said.
Meanwhile, the Connecticut Hispanic Democratic Caucus called for Maturo resign “over his baldly racist and ethnocentric comment.”
“Joe Maturo didn’t just cross the line,” CHFC Chair Tomas Reyes Jr. stated in a release. “He destroyed any pretense of a line.”
Tags: East Haven, Maturo, Tacos
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What a black eye for East Haven and for Italian Americans everywhere. Maturo talks about the need for the town to heal but the town cannot heal until Maturo and Gallo and their mindset are gone. It is a travesty of justice and that these bullies retain positions of power.
I wonder how many of those bitterly protesting had grandparents or great-grandparents who were illegal aliens.
When I was a child some 40 years ago, a popular derogatory term for Italian-American was “wop.” How many people know the derivation of this word: “without papers”!
Also, thank you, Gary, for your comment. I totally agree.
This is national news, and a huge embarrassment. Doesn’t the largely Italian-American population in East haven know what their own immigrant great-grandparents and great-great grandparents went through as immigrants to this country?! Seriously, the Italians (and other ethnicities) were your “Latinos” of 1880, 1890, 1900, etc… How quickly you forget. Or are you all so incurious that you never even bothered to think about it and find out about where you came from?!
And - more tacos for everyone. One of my favorite things about living in New Haven is the fantastic, authentic Latin food. I say we need more, not less. Give Wooster St. a run for its money.
I may be wrong about the derivation of the epithet “wop,” my sources are conflicting. The correct one well may be “guappo,” anglicized into “wop.” In any event, Italian-Americans were often considered “greasy wops” or “degos” (I believe from “diego,” a reference to Christopher Columbus). In only a few generations, their descendants forgot this or were transformed into their oppressors as they assimilated.
We are a nation of immigrants. Most newly-arrived are just like the rest of us. They want a comfortable place to live and be able to feed their families. Most are honest and do not steal, particularly if they are not desperately hungry or cold. And many have to make ends meet with menial, low-paying jobs because they don’t speak the language when they get here or are victims of discrimination.
Whatever the history, public officials need to remember that they serve all the citizens in their realm, not just the ones who are the wealthiest, the whitest, or those perceived to be the most clean, or those with the most widely accepted culinary traditions.
Anyone who is truly American has to keep in mind that every wave of immigrants — illegal or legal — has been the victim of discrimination, and one of those waves included their own forefathers. So they should have enough wisdom and kindness to put a lid on it!
I have been corrected. “Wop” is not derived from “without papers,” it’s from the Italian “guappo” for a handsome, even ostentatious man.
Now isn’t this ironic? Today “guapo” is the similar Spanish word used by the current immigrants to describe a good-looking guy. ...
As Andy Warhol might have put it: “Maturo’s getting his 15 minutes of infamy.”
This is Suppose to be America!!!
Everyone speaks English.
Seems to be another country when reading SPANISH on Signs,Elevators,Bills,Press #2 for English,Now it’s Eat Taco’s or Else, Goes along with you better hire Latino’s or Else.Not Right.
Many Great Grand Parents that came over from other countries and did it the right way through Eilis Island NY and worked their way up and did not CRY to anyone that another race called them a name, They learned English and spoke it only.
American 100% wrote, “This is Suppose to be America!!!
Everyone speaks English.”
posted by: cesar on January 27, 2012 2:39pm
I am ashamed to know that our country is being represented by such an ignorant and heartless person. He should resign immediately. Our true leaders have respect for everybody without regard of nationality, religion etc.