Jill Biden apologises after 'breakfast tacos' comment draws backlash from Latino community

US first lady draws criticism from National Association of Hispanic Journalists

US first lady Jill Biden speaks at an Independence Day celebration for military families in Washington. EPA
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US first lady Jill Biden apologised on Tuesday after an attempt to compliment Latino people flopped when she said they were as unique as “breakfast tacos”, prompting criticism from across the political spectrum.

Speaking in San Antonio, Texas, on Tuesday at the annual conference of UnidosUS, formerly known as the National Council of La Raza, Ms Biden attempted to praise Raul Yzaguirre, who led the civil rights and advocacy organisation for 30 years.

“Raul helped build this organisation with the understanding that the diversity of this community, as distinct as the bodegas of the Bronx, as beautiful as the blossoms of Miami, and as unique as the breakfast tacos here in San Antonio, is your strength,” Ms Biden said.

In New York City, people love the convenience stores known as bodegas that are often run by Dominican or Puerto Rican merchants. Ms Biden mispronounced the word as “bogedas”.

Miami has long been a destination for Latinos who immigrate to the US. San Antonio is also one of the great Latino cities in the country, where 65 per cent of the population is Hispanic or Latino, US Census data show.

The largely Mexican-American city is fond of its breakfast tacos, part of the local cuisine.

In a tweet, Ms Biden's spokesman apologised for the remark and said the first lady had only “pure admiration and love for the Latino community”.

The National Association of Hispanic Journalists was not impressed, saying Ms Biden and her speech writers ought to “better understand the complexities of our people”.

“We are not tacos. Our heritage as Latinos is shaped by a variety of diasporas, cultures and food traditions, and should not be reduced to a stereotype,” the association said in a statement.

Conservatives on social media jumped on the gaffe, wondering what the liberal outrage would sound like if a prominent Republican had said it.

“No wonder Hispanics are fleeing the Democratic Party,” Andy Biggs, a Republican representative from Arizona, wrote on Twitter.

- With Reuters

Updated: July 12, 2022, 4:49 PM