On August 27, the inaugural Portland Taco Festival cancelled its second and final date due to a “snowball effect” of problems. On day one, the festival reportedly sold out of tacos in around 90 minutes, causing "anger and chaos" among paying attendees. Crowds escalated to "hundreds," to the point that the police came to keep things orderly.
Some voiced discontent about the overall value of the event on Twitter: “#PortlandTacoFestival = not worth it, $15 entry gets you a 2.5 hr wait for mediocre tacos, and you still have to pay for them.”
Others focused on the lack of organization:
The festival was so terrible. 2 hour wait for a taco. You can't try more than 1 place unless you want to wait 4-5 hours.— Mirror Property Mgt (@MPMPortlandOR) August 26, 2017
But the festival faced trouble before it even served its first taco. The Mitú digital media company called the event out for representing “another example of the Pacific Northwest’s tone-deaf, casual racism” through its “offensive” advertisements — namely, digital ads on Facebook featuring imagery like “hipsters posing behind hard shell taco cutouts and white boys donning Lucha Libre masks.”
A Portland Taco Festival Is Reinforcing The Worst Mexican Stereotypes - we are mitú https://t.co/vCyvCyiIdV— Holy Harridan (@thedoleofdoves) August 26, 2017
Denver, Colorado-based Connected Soul and Another Brother Productions organized the Portland Taco Festival. In response to the heavy fallout, onsite and online, organizers Timothy Arguello and Stephen Jones published an open apology letter. In it, they claim the festival did not actually run out of food and addressed the charges of cultural insensitivity, among other issues:
We have heard some say that all vendors ran out of food. This is not true. Every vendor we had was a professional and prepped accordingly. We made it clear to them that we would have a lot of people and they rose to the occasion. One vendor that served over 1000 tacos had to close momentarily to restock but was back up within the hour. It is unfortunate that some will attack them as they did such an amazing job.
Regarding comments about the festival’s theme, cultural appropriation and race: We take these comments very seriously, particularly in the current political climate. Taco Fest is founded and run by my self of Mexican dissent, my partner an African American, and a very diverse mixed-race team. This is something dear to me as it is my culture that is in question.
Though the Portland Taco Festival sold tickets through an online broker with a no-refund policy, it will give refunds to anyone who purchased a ticket to Sunday’s event. Eater PDX has reached out to the event organizers for further comment.