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Taco travelers chronicle culinary culture in Corpus Christi

Corpus Christi will be included in the upcoming book, The Tacos of Texas, published by University of Texas press. Courtesy photo

You're not just grabbing breakfast. You're taking part in profound social change that unites cultures across borders -- and it all happens between the folds of a tortilla. So asserts "The Tacos of Texas,” an upcoming book that explores Texas's diversity and deliciousness from Corpus Christi to the Panhandle.

"The focus is people and places,” said author Mando Rayo, a marketer by day and self-described taco journalist by night. "Whether you’re a fifth-generation Texan or a new arrival, Mexican, Latin or Anglo, everyone loves tacos."

Rayo, his co-author Jarod Neece and a small multimedia support crew embarked on a year-long quest to visit 10 taquerias in 10 cities across Texas to discern what each local style says about its regional parentage. They ate their way through Corpus Christi recently, comparing it to other stops along the way.

Corpus Christi's staple is the breakfast taco in a flour tortilla, said Rayo. Abilene, not immediately known as an epicenter of tacos, spins its own surprise with ribeye steak tacos. The mayor of Midland, it turns out, owns his own Mexican restaurant.

“Texas is an open road,” Rayo said. “In the Rio Grande Valley, you find massive flour tortillas the size of pizzas. In El Paso and West Texas, you have red and green chiles that have transitioned from New Mexico. Through intimate interviews and storytelling, we’re going to capture each city’s taco vibe.”

Rayo's custom #ChevyTacoTruck, provided by Chevrolet and fueled by Shell, visited Corpus Christi's Taqueria Jalisco, Molé, Nano’s, Hi-Ho Restaurant and several other local taquerias. Each one, Rayo said, demonstrates the taco’s modern diversity. Styles range from traditional Mexican, to Tex-Mex, to what Rayo calls “New Americano” — fusion food that rolls international cultures and flavors into one tortilla. A video web series and the #TacosofTexas hashtag chronicle every step of the journey.

“At the end, we’ll have a book with over 100 stories about people who are passing on a tradition, where they take the roots of Mexican food and do something beautiful with it,” Rayo said. “In Texas, we don’t break bread. We break tortilla. That’s how we form relationships. We tell stories through eating tacos. If you get a little grease on this book, even better.”

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