A Mexican restaurant in a small Iowa town has become a focus of attention by locals after posting a yard sign explaining his political stance, drawing both controversy and support from customers over the anti-racist message.
Alfonso Medina owns La Carreta in Marshalltown, Iowa, a restaurant that has been serving such beloved Mexican dishes as chile verde, enchiladas, and burritos for 20 years. The town lies about 50 miles northeast of Des Moines.
However, amid the increasingly polarized political and racial climate in the United States, Medina decided that it was time to make a simple statement addressing questions of basic respect and social equity.
Locals in the small Midwestern town quickly responded to the message, with some residents excoriating the restaurant for making a political stance.
Rather than taking the sign down, Medina decided to place a much bigger sign on his yard that read: “NO LOVE, NO TACOS.”
For Medina, the issue is simple: if businesses such as Chick-fil-A and Hobby Lobby can openly support Christian causes and donate to anti-LGBTQ organizations, then it’s only right that small business owners like him can share their views to motivate open dialogue and conversations within the community.
Medina also sees the issue of racism as personal. While he was born in Iowa, his own parents migrated from Mexico before finding success with their family business in the small community of Marshalltown. Medina proudly claims that he was “Made in Mexico, delivered in the U.S.”
His vocal stances have garnered some support from the community, allowing the restaurant to thrive despite the pandemic and keep its employees on payroll.
In August, Medina dug his heels in and put up a sign in August that read “WE BELIEVE: Black Lives Matter – no human is illegal – love is love – Women’s rights are human rights – science is real – water is life – injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
“I didn’t think there was anything bad,” he told CNN, explaining that his wife called him “brave” for erecting the sign in front of the restaurant.
His social media feed was quickly inundated with heated criticism over the sign. Some residents even sent hate mail to La Caretta, including one letter accusing the restaurant of having “gone completely POLITICALLY CORRECT (leftist/Marxist),” adding that Medina’s sign “insults & disrespects Christianity & America.”
Medina decided to share the letter on Facebook, where he explained his position.
“If a white-owned company has the right to be vocal about their beliefs, big or small, so does a minority-owned tax-generating business,” Medina wrote in a post to his Facebook profile. “Minority-owned businesses should not shy away from being vocal or thinking they have to keep to themselves their thoughts.”
“I’m sorry if the yard sign has offended anyone, but I don’t believe anything on there is offensive,” he added. “If anything, everything on there is true. And I stand behind it.”
Continuing, he explained that the letters were giving him more strength in being vocal about his stance. “Si ladran es porque vamos avanzando,” he added, which means “If they bark, it signifies we are advancing.”
In a separate Instagram post, he wrote, “We’re sorry your burrito had to get political, but it was the only way y’all would listen.”
He ended the post with a phrase that has, in his words, since launched a movement: “No Love, No Tacos.”
The phrase quickly went viral, and became the new slogan for the Mexican eatery.
“I am someone who takes something negative and tries to turn it into something 10 times more positive,” he said. “If they don’t want us, they should align their ideals and their comments with the food they eat.”
Medina has since copyrighted the slogan, and has a website where customers can buy t-shirts and hoodies with the iconic phrase. All proceeds will go toward scholarships to the local community college. Medina has already sold over 450 shirts and raised $4,000 to distribute to recipients.
He also put up a much larger billboard reading “No Love, No Tacos” that is much bigger than the original sign.
Business is now booming at La Carreta, with customers flooding the restaurant to enjoy its nachos, tacos, and celebrated “California Burrito” – which was named one of the best burritos in the country by The Food Network.
Medina now hopes that he can use his platform to encourage people to vote. He is also advocating for turning Election Day into a national holiday.
“Election Day should be one of the most important days for our country — one day, every four years for our democracy,” Medina told Iowa Starting Line. “And we believe businesses should close on Election Day in order to let their employees go out and vote.”
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