Word of Mouth

Chipotle Releases Second "Cultivating Thought" Series, Still No Mexican Writers

Last year Chipotle and Jonathan Safran Foer, author of Everything Is Illuminated and Eating Animals, teamed up on "Cultivating Thought," a series of short essays from ten writers and "thought leaders" printed on Chipotle drinking cups and paper bags. Chipotle and Foer are now back at it, releasing a second set of "Cultivating Thought" essays last week. The burrito company, known for its commitment to responsibly produced food, took some heat last summer after Mexican and Mexican-American writers pointed out that there were no Mexicans among the group of featured authors, despite the fact that Chipotle labels itself a Mexican grill.

And although the latest series is certainly diverse -- it includes comedian Aziz Ansari, novelist Amy Tan and biographer and policy heavyweight Walter Isaacson -- critics have already complained that something's again missing from the list: a Mexican voice.

See also: The Toppings War: Qdoba Versus Chipotle

After the first list was released, Tijuana-born author Alex Espinoza said this: "Don't ignore me. Don't eat my food and think you know me."

He and fellow Mexican writer Lisa Alvarez created a Facebook page in response to that last called "Cultivating Invisibility: Chipotle's Missing Mexicans" to chronicle the company's blind spot.

While this year's list includes Julia Alvarez, the daughter of immigrants from the Dominican Republic, and Carlos Ruiz Zafón, a native of Barcelona who writes in Spanish, the people who birthed the food on Chipotle's menu are still not represented in the burrito company's series of two-minute tales. So Alvarez and Espinoza have updated their Cultivating Invisibility page with a set of photos showing a map of Mexico with the caption "This is Mexico!", Spain ("Really not Mexico, in so many ways. Come on"), and the Caribbean (with multiple captions pointing out all the Spanish-speaking countries that are not, in fact, Mexico).

"In putting together the Cultivating Thought series, our aim is to provide stories from a good cross section of writers, both in terms of background and point of view and, for the most part, we have done that," states Chipotle spokesman Chris Arnold. "The current collection includes stories by authors who represent a global perspective, including Brazilian, British, Dominican and Spanish writers, as well as American writers whose families are of Chinese, Polish and Indian descent."

Arnold goes on to explain that many invitations were sent out -- some of which were declined -- before this year's group was finalized. "Those who have been invited so far include Mexican and Latino contributors who work as professors, novelists, screenwriters, musicians and journalists, and we will continue to look for a diverse pool of contributors if we move forward with this program."

Essays from the ten authors will be available on cups and bags at all Chipotle restaurants in the coming weeks, but you can read them now on Chipotle's website.

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Mark Antonation is the former Westword Food & Drink Editor. In 2018, he was named Outstanding Media Professional by the Colorado Restaurant Association; he's now with the Colorado Restaurant Foundation.
Contact: Mark Antonation