Portland Taco Festival Canceled

Another day, another question of cultural appropriation. Today's subject is the Portland Taco Festival.

Leading up to the festival, organizers, one of whom is later learned to be of Mexican descent, faced criticism for a perceived lack of racial sensitivity due to what some deemed offensive advertisements. Digital media company Mitú called out the ads "plastered with hipsters posing behind hard shell taco cutouts and white boys donning Lucha Libre masks [as] just another example of the Pacific Northwest's tone-deaf, casual racism."

In addition to questions of racism, many festivalgoers were met with a poorly executed event, calling it Portland's own Fyre Festival. Local news outlet KATU reports that the vendors ran out of food in as little as 90 minutes. With hordes of angry attendees demanding refunds, police were called to Portland Meadows to provide crowd control. The second day of festival was canceled as a result.

Two of the organizers behind the failed event are Timothy Arguello and Stephen Jones. In an open letter posted on the festival's site, they take responsibility for the mismanagement but refute the claim that they ran out of food, instead citing unclear signage that neglected to state that all vendors offered taco options as the culprit for the misconception.

Regarding the issue of cultural appropriation and race, the letter states that "Taco Fest is founded and run by my self [sic] of Mexican descent, my partner an African American, and a very diverse mixed-race team. This is something dear to me as it is my culture that is in question." Arguello and Jones state that they had no malicious intent, wanting to "have fun and enjoy a diversity of people, food and activities."

With this new information in hand, is this a case of people crying wolf? Some are likely to say this outrage was fueled by Portland's ongoing struggle with race and cultural appropriation, from the Kooks burrito cart saga to the publication of a list of every "culturally appropriative" restaurant in the city. Now we must wrestle with the question of whether a person can be culturally insensitive toward their own race.