Going up outside the main gate of the University of Arizona is Illegal Pete’s Mexican restaurant. Apparently, ignorant that Tucson is in Arizona – the SB 1070 anti-immigrant state – the owner, Pete Turner, feels free to dehumanize and insult millions of people. Tucson is also where the anti Ethnic Studies HB 2281 resulted in the elimination of Ethnic Studies in this state. If he is not aware why the term “illegal” in reference to a person, a people or a culture is demeaning, he can go to: https://www.raceforward.org/practice/tools/drop-i-word-campaign
Please sign this petition, which calls for either changing the name of the restaurant or shutting it down before its mid-December opening. Either that or face a full-scale boycott.
The letter below is mailed to the owner of the restaurant:
To Pete Turner, owner of Illegal Pete’s:
The content of this letter is, simply put, very familiar to you and your company.
This fact, in particular, is the cause of much of our frustration and anger, but this is, by far, not our only point of contention. Over and over, you have claimed that you are dedicated to, and have provided much for, the community where your restaurants have existed, but what we ask is which community are you serving? What we are telling you is that we are not like other communities where your business exists, and we are more than willing to show you that.
Demographically, the cities of Tucson and South Tucson have a drastic percentage gap of Latina/o persons than your current locations (using the 2010 census, the smallest gap was about 10% and the largest was about 60%). To you, this may mean nothing, but what you must realize is that you, and your business, do not exist in a context-free world. To you, “illegal” is a playful and meaningless descriptor that gives your restaurant a memorable name; it creates a “clever” brand. That is because this word, and its connotations, affects only your stress level and your wallet.
We are here to tell you that no longer will you be able to claim blissful ignorance and profit from racism.
Unlike the state of Colorado, Arizona has legalized racial profiling and criminalization of brown persons by the state. Senate Bill 1070, passed in 2010, is just one aggression towards brown persons in a series that spans five hundred years; and the use of “illegal” to stigmatize Mexicans, Central Americans, Mexican-Americans, Latina/os, Chicana/os, and other brown persons is just another aggression that continually dehumanizes these communities. Your restaurant, and even more its name, completely disregards this slur and uses it as a tool to normalize the racism that is inherent within the term.
Building upon the fact that the primary style of the menu is “Mission-style Mexican”, not only does your establishment offend a large portion of the Tucson and South Tucson communities, but it also appropriates its culture for the sole purpose of making money. It is beyond doubtful that any given patron is aware of the ridiculous story that you have provided to justify the use of “illegal”, and it is even more doubtful that this patron will consciously separate the fare from the name that is plastered all around them.
Intentionally or not, you, by refusing to change the name, are perpetuating the use of “illegal” in connection with the Mexican culture. Moreover, the strategic location you have chosen (walking distance from the University of Arizona) and the inclusion of a bar in your racist-named restaurant, will unquestionably prolong our community’s problem with racially charged, alcohol induced “celebrations” of appropriated Mexican culture (i.e. Cinco de Mayo).
1234 MAIN STREET ANYTOWN, STATE ZIP (123) 456-7890
THE UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA
Already you have created a rift in our community, convincing our Hispanic
Chamber of Commerce that, due to your high-paying positions, you are an overall positive institution, but what type of positive institution blatantly profits from marginalized communities? We, as voices of both the Latina/o community of Tucson and the University of Arizona student community, are standing up to your institution of hate and telling you that although you control your business, WE control our community. And no matter how much you try to bribe us by “giving back to the community”, you will never be able to pay your way out of the fact that you have built a chain of restaurants on the exploitation and appropriation of a group of people that suffer because of a word and the hatred that fuels it.
Language represents ideas and no human is “illegal”.
You have heard this argument before and have willfully dismissed it – we are here to tell you that you will no longer be able to continue under this hateful name.
This letter is only the beginning.
M.E.Ch.A de University of Arizona