When Chipotle announced its “Cultivating Thought” partnership with Jonathan Safran Foer last year to offer fast-casual servings of literature in its restaurants (printed on the bags and cups your food and drink come in) alongside its Mexican-inspired fare, the news was greeted with a mixed reaction: Nobody is gonna complain about short, original work from writers like Toni Morrison, George Saunders, or Judd Apatow, but also–if Chipotle is a Mexican restaurant, why were none of the writers tapped for the project, you know, Mexican? Mexican-American? Of Latino descent, even?
Chipotle insisted that they reached out to Mexican authors, who rejected their overtures–claims that were met with skepticism from writers within that literary community. The “Cultivating Invisibility” Facebook group–started by Mexican-American writers and English professors Lisa Alvarez and Alex Espinoza to highlight “Chipotle’s missing Mexicans”–provided a place for those frustrated about this to come together. And, with the second wave of “Cultivating Thought” announced, they’re back in action.
The lineup for round two of Chipotle’s literary series (words that, even twelve short months ago, would have made no sense in that order) is more diverse than the first–authors include Aziz Ansari, Amy Tan, Paulo Coelho, and Julia Alvarez, as well as Neil Gaiman, Jeffrey Eugenides, Barbara Kingsolver, and more–but it still doesn’t include anyone of Mexican descent. That’s something that the Cultivating Invisibility crew had fun with–by offering maps for Chipotle to use to note that Paulo Coelho, a fine Brazilian author, is from a country that is geographically dissimilar to Mexico; that Alvarez, a Hispanic Heritage Award in Literature-winning poet, is from the Dominican Republic (“close to Mexico, but not Mexico”); and that contributor Carlos Ruiz Zafon is from Spain (“Really not Mexico in many ways”). Surely, they seem to argue, there are plenty of authors of Mexican descent whose words are worthy of being published on what is, ultimately, the garbage from your fast food.