A petition is being shared among Ojai residents accusing a soon-to-open New Mexican restaurant of cultural appropriation. “Indigenous and Latinx communities are not an aesthetic. They are historical, ancestral, and targeted. Using ‘New Mexico’ as a mask for appropriative actions, ignores important historical context, further marginalizing Indigenous and Latinx communities,” writes Chiany Dri, the petition’s creator.
“Ojai can do better than this and deserves better than this for ourselves and each other.”
The restaurant at the center of the controversy is Tres Hermanas, a New Mexican restaurant slated to open in Downtown Ojai “this winter,” according to the restaurant’s website. The tipster who notified L.A. TACO also sent a screenshot appearing to show three women alleged to be the restaurant’s owners, taken from Tres Hermanas Ojai’s Instagram account; it is no longer active.
In Susan Scafidi’s 2005 book, Who Owns Culture? Appropriation and Authenticity in American Law, largely considered to be the authoritative source on the subject, the author, attorney, and legal scholar defines cultural appropriation as: “Taking intellectual property, traditional knowledge, cultural expressions, or artifacts from someone else’s culture without permission. This can include unauthorized use of another culture’s dance, dress, music, language, folklore, cuisine, traditional medicine, religious symbols, etc. It’s most likely to be harmful when the source community is a minority group that has been oppressed or exploited in other ways or when the object of appropriation is particularly sensitive, e.g. sacred objects.”
The core issue of appropriation at hand is the term “Three Sisters” in both the restaurant’s logo and concept—in Spanish. The petition reminds us that a term created by native Iroquois and Haudenosaunee people as a story of the three sisters, which is a full-circle growing practice of growing corn, squash, and beans recognized by many indigenous cultures across North America.
Ojai is located about 80 miles away from Los Angeles and is a popular weekend retreat or day trip destination, mostly for its peaceful environment and emerging dining scene. According to the 2021 census, Ojai’s population hovers at 7,500 residents—78% of which are white. New Mexico’s population is roughly ten percent native American, with 23 recognized tribes. Ojai sits on Chumash land, with native peoples inhabiting the land up to 1,000 years before Spanish settlers arrived in 1769 (then known as “Rancho Ojay”)
The petition has just over one thousand signatures and lists five requests to Three Sisters:
—The owner revise their logo and business name to remove elements that are of Indigenous and Latinx significance.
—The owner remove Indigenous storytelling elements from their mission statement and to be reflective of New Mexico and not of the Latinx and Indigenous cultures that preceded it.
—The owner hire or employ a Diversity, Equity & Inclusion consultant (or consultant with a similar and documented skill set) to help implement these critical and foundational changes in support of a meaningful and socially-conscious business ethos.
—The owner commit a percentage of their business earnings to be donated to a local non-profit organization specifically serving Indigenous and/or Latinx communities.
—The business release a statement of apology on their social media and online platforms acknowledging receipt of the petition, apologizing for any and all harm caused to the community, and outlining all changes and commitments being made by the business and its owner/s to address and repair any and all harm caused.
The owners of Three Sisters have allegedly responded to the petition, stating, “We are currently working with and in deep communication with our contacts and vendors in New Mexico. We are engaging with cultural anthropologists and with food culture specialists. We are researching the best and most appropriate non profit organization to make benefactors of our future restaurant. These are exactly and directly what the petition asked, and they are taken very seriously.”
But the petition’s organizers say that isn’t enough and “not what the petition asks.”
A similar incident alleging cultural appropriation by a pop-up took place in Portland, Oregon, in 2017. That situation involved a breakfast burrito pop-up inside a Mexican-owned restaurant named “Kooks” in which the owners—one white and one Asian—admitted to “stealing” the recipe for their handmade flour tortilla from a tortillera in Baja. Kook’s ended up closing after that controversy.
L.A. TACO sent an email to the restaurant’s contact email requesting comment to find out more but has not heard back. The owners also link Tres Hermanas’s “Sister Restaurant,” Deer Lodge, on the Tres Hermana’s website.
For further reading on the differences between cultural appreciation and cultural appropriation, read L.A. TACO’s story on the subject written by Melissa Mora Hidalgo, the trompo’s resident Ph.D. and Fulbright Alum scholar.
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So white people cannot open a Mexican food restaurant, or use a Spanish name.
Cultures constantly borrow from each other. No one owns culture. Cultural appropriation is a silly concept imagining harm where none exists.
Exactly. This also fuels the ultra-rightwing phenomenon taking place right now in this country. A significant part of the US has had a belly full of this, and other ultra-leftwing agendas, getting a lot of publicity in the last decade.
I remember when this all started with the Politically Correct movement when anything ending in “man” had to be changed to something gender-neutral.
Wow!! Can I petition to remove/ignore ludicrous, asinine petitions such as this one??? Get a life people!! How dare YOU dictate what recipes, culture, indigenous names, foods, employees, people can or cannot use!!
Oh, and the Spaniards arrived about two hundred years prior to your 1769 date!
You had me till you said Latinx brown people don’t use that word its a white people term. White people trying to put us in box cause there lazy and just don’t care to learn instead they try to make it easier for themselves.
The Chumash were on this land far longer than 1000 years before the Spanish. Try 10,000+
Chipotle, Taco Bell are no different.
If your content is “hyperlocal”, why do you care what goes on in Ojai?
We try not to be Los Angeles.
That is woke bs. Stop making things racial. Everyone can make any food they want and choose themes of there choice. It really doesn’t matter anymore unless you are a racist.
So, to the journalist, author, petitioner, how does the Ojai circumstance share with an Inkand Empire enterprise, from Texas, indicating an American and TexMex flavour with SouthAmerican/Portuguese cuisine *using “de” rather than “do” in its name* —- is this nothing but marketing and capitalism??
…… so this appreciation / appropriation differs from American BarBeQue adjusted under Korean BBQ or the folks that took Sandi Romero’s unprotectected “Mama’s Hot Tamales” – registered, trademarked and then kicked her to the curb ( oh yeah, then threatened to bankrupt her with lawsuits if she tried to use the name again…)
White people trying to make things easier for themselves? You mean like coming to American to take advantage of a coulter with rich economic and freedom’s not seen in your own land. Gtfoh.
“…cultural appropriation as: “Taking intellectual property, traditional knowledge, cultural expressions, or artifacts from someone else’s culture without permission.”
So as biracial Chef with a Mexican gf… I can’t cook our favorite Mexican, Italian, Thai, Japanese, Jamaican, Indian, Korean, etc. dishes?
I should no longer use the Spanish language or cultural expressions to communicate with her?
At one time learning another culture, appreciating it, immersing one self in it was heralded as a good thing.
Now self segregation and ignorant attempts to claim culture are the new norm.
As this attorney who wrote this… which culture am I allowed embrace?
My white Australian mum’s? My black American father”s? The German culture, as I was born there (and lived for over 8 years … twice)?
Which one am I told to “stay in your lane” with? And God forbid my gf and I have child. Which lane should that little on be in?
None. Cause we will share our history, and the amazing history, cultures and food we please.
Really? In a ‘Free Country’ we all have the ‘Right’ to do whatever we see fit for ourselves…
Declaring who owns ‘Cultural This’ and ‘Cultural That’ is complete bullshit…
This is an Obvious Case of Reverse Racism!
If I want to open an Italian Food Truck, drive around Ojai selling Spaghetti from a can, and call it ‘Whops on Wheels’ it’s entirely within my ‘Right’ to do so!
Besides, in this particular instance, Mexico, ‘New’ or ‘Old’ is Extremely Diverse…
Due to ‘Just’ the Spanish and German Conquests of Mexican Territory, Mexico has Appropriated ‘Alot’ of ‘European’ and ‘Latin’ ‘Traditions’ that were ‘Not’ their own!
Are you going to insist that Mexico ‘Not’ play ‘Accordions’ in their Music because it was due to German influence?
Are you going to tell Mexicans that they have to find a different language because it’s based on Spanish or Latin origins?
It sounds ‘Pretty Stupid’ doesn’t it?
Just as Stupid as telling a New Business Owner what they ‘Can’ and ‘Cannot’ do!
Who has the ‘Right’ to impose their views on other people?
Get over it and buy some Tacos from these nice young women!
‘Support’ and ‘Love’ go a ‘Very Long Way’ in building a Community…
This petition is absolutely horrible and wrong. Perfect example of PC run amok. The owners of Tres Hermanas are incredibly hard working people and a valuable asset to the Ojai community. This is another asinine attempt of the liberal left trying to “cancel” good spirited entrepreneurship where good paying jobs are being created. Shame on you. Sincerely yours. I hope Tres Hermanas is wildly successful.
The Petition is biased I think. How is this different than the Taco Bells or Chipotles around the world? I say open the restaurant up 🙂 we need more great food!
This article is an absolute piece of garbage. I agree with dmbeaster in arguing the question, “Are white people not allowed to open Mexican food restaurants?” What’s great about America is that we can all glean ideas from other cultures and share in our cultural history in modern ways. Denying a certain race to make Mexican food is the real crime. I say that LA Taco should keep their flailing accusations in LA and out of Ojai
Oh fuck off. And Latinx is another perv move to remove gender from society.
You know it’s a grift when they demand you pay a DEI consultant and help fund a non-profit. Ojai white people have the right to be cringe. Doesn’t hurt me.
And “Ojai’s Latino community does X” is a weird formulation, like the author is trying to make everyone there look dumb.
Omg how about live and let live! Stop crying discrimination. These girls aren’t trying or intending to harm anyone. What’s happened to this country…..
Omfg. Screw whoever signed the petition, and F**K whoever started it. What is this world coming to. Did yall know the owners of Outback had never been to Australia?
F off ojai.
Honestly, i bet it wasn’t even Hispanics who started the petition.
3 hermanas, i hope you read this and know you did NOTHING wrong. The world is wrong.
Because what goes on anywhere sets a precedent that others will cite to further their agenda.
The elephant in the room is who is taking offense to this? Is it the Latino’s objecting to this or is it some other demographic with a hidden agenda?
The Latino’s I know could care less what you’re calling your shop.
Do you people really have nothing better to do than look for ways to be offended? Take it as a compliment that a small business owner cherishes the culture and wants to share it with the rest of us. LA TACO, is this the most newsworthy story you could come up with?
Oh wow. I am a latina and granddaughter of immigrant grandparents from Mexico. You are all ridiculous. Turning a positive thing into a negative thing. Another way to indirectly segregate and discriminate by putting down their business concept. California loves to destroy family owned businesses which thousands were minority owned, by the way. Whoever petitioned is full of insecurities and issues.
Pack that B.S. away how pathetic cry when someone says something or makes a restaurant feel out your hurt feelings report and send it to who cares!!!! Bunch of cry sackers. So tired of this crap it’s time people stand up and start calling this behavior out and not letting it go unchecked.
You go WOKE, you go BROKE!
This article seeks solely to divide. You can only do “white” things. This person can only do “black” things. This person can only do “pick a color” things. Is this the world we want to live in? One that promotes segregation masquerading as “protecting” culture? Stoking hatred in the name of love? It’s disgusting. Fortunately all hispanic people I know don’t subscribe to this BS
Hermanas, this is a bad way to run a business. You need to establish yourself and begin making money before you waste it on consultants and charities. You’ll be out of business within a year listening to rabid woke animals.
I could care less about who owns the restaurant, the real question is whether or not its good food. I can’t stand Taco Bell or Chipotle BUT!! Oddly enough I don’t hear any outcry about those places. Get over it people, there are far more important things to fight about. Like James Franco playing Fidel Castro instead of John Leguizamo Wait a minute didn’t John leguzimo play an Italian plumber in Mario brothers the movie. Oops never mind.
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