Are the Most Popular Mexican Foods Really Mexican?

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Are the Most Popular Mexican Foods Really Mexican?

We take a look at the history behind popular festive foods for Cinco de Mayo to find out which are truly authentic.

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Nachos

Records show this simple dish was first served in the early 1940s by Ignacio Anaya, who worked at the old Victory Club in a small Mexican town just across the border from Eagle Pass, Texas. To feed a group of hungry tourists that arrived after the kitchen closed, he used on-hand ingredients and dubbed his creation Nachos Especiales.

Verdict: Nachos are a relatively recent invention and therefore not as authentic as you think.

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Hard Shell Tacos

While soft tortilla tacos are common in Mexico, the hard shell version is relatively unheard of. Records show the earliest example of hard shell tacos was published in a New Mexican cookbook during the 1940s, and the first patent for an industrial tortilla fryer was filed in 1947 by a New York-based restaurateur.

Verdict: Hard shell tacos are an American creation.

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Quesadillas

While the origins of quesadillas are unknown, the history of tortilla making and cooking date back to ancient times and tortillas are a staple of Mesoamericans. Early Mexican cookbooks from the early- to mid-1800s include recipes for quesadillas, which were derived from older Mexican traditions and have evolved over time to incorporate new ingredients.

Verdict: Definitely Mexican.

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Burritos

There are several theories behind the invention of the burrito; some say 19th-century cowboys from northern Mexico carried burritos in their saddlebags, while others claim a Ciudad Juarez street vendor by the name of Juan Mendez first sold burritos from his donkey-pulled cart during the Mexican Revolution. Burritos are mostly found in the northern regions of Mexico, and today’s burrito shares little resemblance to the burritos of older origins.

Verdict: Burritos haven't been around as long as other Mexican staples—plus the burrito you're eating is likely not authentic.

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Enchiladas

Considered a national dish in Mexico, the history of enchiladas dates back to Aztec times. The dish, stuffed corn tortilla topped with tomato or chile sauce, has evolved over the years. One way it has changed is through the addition of cheese. Plus, there are many regional varieties.

Verdict: Definitely Mexican.

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Margarita

One of the most popular stories behind the invention of the margarita is that Carlos “Danny” Herrara, who owned a restaurant near Tijuana, created the drink in 1938 for an actress client who could not consume any hard alcohol except tequila.

Verdict: Margaritas have an interesting origin, but not a long history.

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Tamales

Eaten by Mexicans long before the Spaniards arrived to the New World, tamales, made of prepared cornmeal dough steamed in corn husks, were traditionally an important festival food served by the Aztecs.

Verdict: The real deal.

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Tacos, nachos and margaritas have become signature festive fare for Cinco de Mayo, but are they authentically Mexican? We take a look at the history behind their creation to find out whether these delicious foods come from the motherland.

Check out the slideshow above to discover which popular foods for Cinco de Mayo are truly Mexican.

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