Food and Immigration
The Chino Latino boycott testifies to the continuing power of race in shaping food experiences for both immigrant and non-immigrant eaters and producers of ethnic food. Echoing this past and contemporary reality, over the last thirty years immigration scholars have expanded their focus on food as a means through which immigrants craft and express group identity, to food as a site for building and reinforcing power relations, particularly through racial exclusion. However, like the Chino Latino incident, in which the restaurant’s media representations garnered more attention than its treatment of their minority workforce, the field’s overall emphasis on the representation and consumption of ethnic food has largely obscured consumers’
inextricable connection to ethnic food laborers. Historians should seek to understand the historical roots of modern food systems that divorce consumption from production to generate consumer protests against restaurants like Chino Latino. Public food marketplaces, as meeting sites for migrants and non-migrants, offer historians and food studies scholars alike the opportunity to enlarge research on racialization, but also to link consumption and production and to explore the interethnic interactions suggested by Chino Latino’s name. Finally, immigration historians’ transnational frameworks have pushed new scholarship of food beyond the confines of the nation state. However, as food histories continue to “go global,” historians should keep such expanded frameworks anchored in the time-and place-specific contexts and inequalities that create both opportunity and constraint for different people around food.