Friday, November 7, 2014

Should People Be Upset by a Burrito Joint Called "Illegal Pete's"?

Posted By on Fri, Nov 7, 2014 at 2:14 PM

IllegalPEtesTeeVert.jpg

Sure, you might ask yourself why you might care about the controversy over drama at a chain of burrito places in Colorado, but considering the Illegal Pete's concept is coming to Tucson at some point, the controversy about the "Illegal" part of their name is somewhat interesting:

From Eater:

The owner of a burrito chainlet in Colorado will not change its controversial name despite serious protests. According to KDVR, Pete Turner, the owner of Illegal Pete's, wrote an open letter on the restaurant's website defending the name. Last month, activists took issue with the term "illegal" because they feel it is a negative stereotype referring to immigrants who crossed the border into the United States without official paperwork. Others likened the term to a "racial slur."

[In a lengthy blog post,] he also explains the name: Turner claims that the name is a "literary reference to a bar in a novel he read as an English major" and that pete refers to his and his father's name. Turner opens the seventh location of Illegal Pete's on November 13.

While the first question that comes to my mind isn't about the word "illegal" but more concerning Tucson's need for another Colorado company to sell us burritos (Chipotle started in Denver), it does seem like there's a lot to like about the company: they serve Niman Ranch meats, employees receive "above-average" pay and benefits (front-of-the-house new hires will start at $32,000 a year starting in April of 2015), they offer touring bands a free meal, they also have a record label which features some cool bands and comedians, etc.

But, yeah, if you're serving Mexican food and the word "illegal" is in your name, people might get a certain impression. It would seem, however - and I write this realizing my own privilege might come into play here - that some of the protestors are overblowing this a bit:

Others at the meeting likened the name to a racial slur directed at African-Americans, hanging a Confederate flag in the restaurant’s window or calling a restaurant “Smoking Lynching BBQ.”

Illegal Pete's hasn't announced a specific timetable for coming to Tucson, although all reports indicate it would be "in the next year."

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