A pop-up burrito shop in Portland, Oregon has closed its doors after accusations of cultural appropriation. Kali Wilgus and Liz ‘LC’ Connelly, both white women, opened the food truck after visiting Mexico but were ultimately accused of stealing their process.
As reported by the Daily Mail, Wilgus and Connelly opened the Kooks Burrito food truck after taking a trip to Puerto Nuevo, Mexico last December. The shop was initially very well received, gaining the attention of the local weekly paper, the Willamette Week, who decided to profile the women behind the business.
During an interview with the local paper, Connelly said, “I picked the brains of every tortilla lady there in the worst broken Spanish ever, and they showed me a little of what they did.”
She went on to describe the food the pair enjoyed on the trip, saying, “In Puerto Nuevo, you can eat $5 lobster on the beach, which they give you with this bucket of tortillas.” She went on to say, “They are handmade flour tortillas that are stretchy and a little buttery and best of all, unlimited.”
Connelly stated, “[The tortilla ladies] wouldn’t tell us too much about the technique, but we were peeking into the windows of every kitchen, totally fascinated by how easy they made it look. We learned quickly it isn’t that easy.”
Portland Mercury, a food blog, read the comments and then accused Wilgus and Connelly of “preying” on the women who were making the food during their trip to Mexico.
The blog piece began, “This week in white nonsense, two white women – Kali Wilgus and Liz ‘LC’ Connelly – decided it would be cute to open a food truck after a fateful excursion to Mexico,” continuing, “The owners of Kooks Burritos all but admitted in an interview with the Willamette Week that they colonized this style of food.”
“So let’s recap the story thus far: These two white women went to Mexico, ate tacos, and then decided they would just take what the locals clearly didn’t want to give them,” said the blog writer. “If that wasn’t bad enough, they decided to pack up all their stolen intellectual property and repackage it.”
The food blog stated the closure of the taco truck was a “victory,” going on to accuse the city of Portland of having “underlying racism.”
Comments made on the Willamette Week article mirrored the sentiment. A Facebook post read, “Stealing is in their nature so I’m not surprised. They’re not creative so they had to get the idea from someone,” while another stated the owner’s of Kooks Burritos had “no passion or respect for the culture from which they stole.”
However, some social media users did come to the defense of Wilgus and Connelly, posting points like “tortilla making is easy and not a secret” and that the food truck was shut down “because the wrong color hands made the tortillas.” Many also called to end the harassment directed at the pair, even saying that there were “successful Portland businesses that have been doing this at a much larger scale for years.”
After the food truck’s closure, Kooks Burritos deleted its website and social media accounts.