After Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, newly arrived loncheras, or taco trucks, provided an invaluable and overlooked service, feeding cleanup crews and reconstruction workers. Yet despite the important role these Latinx food vendors continue to fill and their growing popularity among the non-Latinx community, these entrepreneurs face challenges in accessing political and cultural legitimacy. Situating the experiences of lonchera vendors within the larger political economy of U.S. immigration legislation and food truck policy demonstrates how national trends, instead of local realities, are used to shape policies that impact these food vendors. This article uses an ethnographic framework based in New Orleans to argue that the regulation of loncheras maps onto the criminalization of immigrant communities through an emphasis on licensing and documentation. Juxtaposing the case studies of two mobile food vendors, Mateo and Magda—both undocumented—allows for a critical analysis of the ways immigrants navigate bureaucratic systems to make ends meet.
Re-Regulating Loncheras, Food Trucks, and their Clientele: Navigating Bureaucracy and Enforcement in New Orleans
Sarah Fouts is a postdoctoral fellow at Lehigh University in Latin American and Latino Studies. She has a PhD in Latin American Studies from Tulane University and an MS in Urban Studies from the University of New Orleans. Sarah is currently working on a book project entitled Tacos and Gumbo: The Transnational Politics of Food, Immigration, and Labor. Her research has been featured in North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA), the Southern Foodways Alliance's El Sur Latino, NPR's The Salt, Gravy podcast, and the WYES documentary, Latino Cuisine in New Orleans. Her academic work is published in Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, Journal of Southern History, and Race, Gender, and Class.
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Sarah Fouts; Re-Regulating Loncheras, Food Trucks, and their Clientele: Navigating Bureaucracy and Enforcement in New Orleans. Gastronomica 1 August 2018; 18 (3): 1–13. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/gfc.2018.18.3.1
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