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FOOD FIGHT

The owner of a beloved Mexican chain is a Trump supporter, and it’s tearing his city apart

Reuters/Mike Stone
Don’t mess with Tex-Mex.
  • Ana Campoy
By Ana Campoy

Deputy editor, global finance and economics

Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Texans are passionate about their Mexican food, but for some, politics apparently trump enchiladas.

Mi Cocina, a Dallas, Texas, institution with a fervent following, is now being scorned by former fans because its owner is a key Donald Trump fundraiser. Ray Washburne, a local businessman, on Monday (June 6) told the Dallas Morning News that he was excited about the presumptive Republican nominee’s visit to his hometown next week, adding that he hoped the trip would result in millions of dollars in campaign contributions. Next thing Washburne knew, a Hispanic activist had called for a Mi Cocina boycott and people were actually following his advice.

“Customers the past 20 years or more. Absolutely deplorable that the owners of an incredible Mexican establishment would lend its support to Donald Trump,” wrote one commenter on Mi Cocina’s Facebook page. “Will not return, ever.”

Others are downplaying the controversy.

Washburne told D Magazine, a local publication, that the boycott will only hurt the hundreds of Hispanic workers he employs. But that hasn’t appeased local activists, who are planning protests outside another restaurant he owns, Taco Diner, as well as at Washburne’s home. Quintanilla is also calling for Mi Cocina workers to go on strike. “A boycott by hispanic employees might take the entire restaurant chain down,” he wrote on Facebook.

Texas, which is solidly Republican, has a special relationship with Mexico. Many of its Hispanic residents trace their roots to a time when Texas was actually part of its neighbor to the south. Mexico is also Texas’s biggest trading partner, responsible for the purchase of billions of dollars worth of Texas-made stuff every year.

Texas’s brand of Mexican food is big business, too. M Crowd, the parent company of Mi Cocina, at one time had annual revenues approaching $80 million, according to D Magazine. It was founded by Michael “Mico” Rodriguez, a charismatic waiter whose knack for swanky Tex-Mex helped him build a restaurant empire.

Rodriguez eventually lost it all to Washburne and other M Crowd backers, due to his lavish spending and drinking. Despite his exit, Mi Cocina remained a beloved spot, hailed locally and outside the state for its mambo taxi, a margarita-sangría concoction.

Some people see a silver lining in Mi Cocina’s latest troubles.

“Selfishly, I hope people do boycott MC [Mi Cocina],” read a comment to one of the many stories written on the topic. “It will just make it easier for me to get a table.”

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