It will come as no surprise that burritos are a big deal for us here at California Burritos. They are a staple of Mexican food and a favorite of patrons of takeout and sit-down restaurants alike. Burritos are versatile and self-contained, making them the perfect meal for any situation. But have you ever wondered why we call them “burritos”?
We’re going to find out the origins of our favorite Mexican food, starting with the name.
A Quick Vocab Lesson
If you took Spanish in school, you might remember that the suffix –ito is added to the end of a word to make the diminutive. By taking –ito off of the word burrito, we are left with burro. If you can continue to stretch your memory to your Spanish vocabulary lessons, you might also remember that burro means “donkey.” The means that burrito translates to “little donkey.” We know that doesn’t really clear anything up. Why name a food after a donkey? The truth is that we don’t know exactly, but there are a few stories that attempt to explain it.
There are two similar stories that offer an explanation for why we call burritos “burritos.” Both stories involve travelers needing a way to carry their food on the road. The first explanation originates with the people of Sonora, a region in northwestern Mexico. The Sonorans were frequent travelers who often carried their luggage on donkeys. They found it was easier to transport their food if they wrapped it in a tortilla, and they also discovered that it was great to eat that way, too. They took to calling this traveling food “little donkey” after their pack animals.
Another version of the story attributes the creation and name of the burrito to a street vendor in Chihuahua, Mexico, in the 1910s. During the time of the Mexican Revolution, Juan Méndez needed a way to keep his food warm while traveling, so he wrapped it in a tortilla. This made it easy to carry his food on his donkey and eat it. Just like the Sonorans, he named his creation after his donkey.
For the Kids
There is one more story that also involves a street vendor from Chihuahua. We don’t know his name, but the story goes that in the 1940s, he sold food neat a school in Ciudad Juárez. He wrapped food in tortillas to sell to the school kids at lunchtime. His nickname for the kids was burritos, which is slang for “slow” or “dimwitted.” We like to think that it was an affectionate nickname. Either way, it stuck as the name of our favorite Mexican food.