A professor at the University of Kentucky in Lexington has done what some academics, and their students, may have only dreamed of — lead an entire class about tacos.
The undergraduate class is called "Taco Literacy: Public Advocacy and Mexican Food in the U.S. South," and students will explore Mexican migration in the South through food.
The delicious discourse will be led by Steven Alvarez, professor of writing, rhetoric, and digital studies at UK.
"It really encompasses more about migration foodways and looking at the South throgh the prism of food," Alvarez told BuzzFeed News. "The course is on food but it's really about the culture around food."
One of the class's first exercises in taco literacy was to plug search terms for Mexican food into Google Maps, which "showed the segregation" of Lexington's neighborhoods and mapped out its barrios with concentrated Mexican communities, Alvarez said.
The students first searched terms like "Mexican" and "Mexican food." Then they searched Spanish terms like "taqueria." Each mapped out different neighborhoods in Lexington where many Mexicans in the city are known to live.
"You could see on the map different circles and see where the neighborhoods are," said Alvarez. "Many of those are very close to the horse farms."
The class offering comes as many Mexican immigrants have migrated to Kentucky to work in the tobacco industry or on horse farms, said Alvarez.
Alvarez said the biggest goal of the class is to "examine some of the food literacy and foodways of the South which has a history and a network with Latin America and Mexico."
"It's changing," he said. "The way we talk about this change is painful sometimes. Talking about these things through food is a good place to start."
Students explore Mexican migration in the South through four assignments during the semester, including visiting a Mexican restaurant, documenting the experience on Instagram, and writing a narrative review.
The class then will read two books — Gustavo Arellano's Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America and Jeffrey Pilcher's Planet Taco: A Global History of Mexican Food — for an essay related to Mexican food in the U.S. and globally.
The class will then write a thesis paper that will argue a larger point about Mexican food, migration, and culture pulling from their fieldwork and research.
At the end of the class, the students will present a digital project that includes their Instagram posts and other assignments.
On Saturday, March 5, the students will even get to go on a "Mexington taco tour" of Lexington's various Mexican restaurants.
Some Mexican restaurateurs in Lexington will also appear as guest lecturers throughout the class to show how connected Mexican migration in the state is to the tobacco industry, but also because it is "important for the community to be a part of the classroom."
Happy eating, er, learning to this Taco Literacy class!
Leticia Miranda is a consumer affairs reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Leticia Miranda at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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