First lady Jill Biden was criticized and issued an apology for her comments during a speech in San Antonio on Monday.
Biden was speaking at the 2022 UnidosUS Annual Conference titled “Siempre Adelante: Our Quest for Equity” when she said that the Latino community was “as unique as the breakfast tacos” in the city.
She was praising the work of UnidosUS’s former president for over 30 years, Raul Yzaguirre, when she made the controversial remark.
“Raul helped build this organization 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,” the first lady said.
The first lady’s pronunciation of “bodegas” was also criticized on social media. The crowd lightly cheered after her reference to breakfast tacos.
Latino advocates, community members, and businesses gather for the event, according to the conference’s website. Speakers touch on issues affecting more than 62 million Latinos across the country.
“Each year the UnidosUS Annual Conference is the premier event devoted to the diverse Hispanic community that is moving our country forward,” the conference’s website reads.
Biden’s comments elicited a quick backlash, namely from the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ).
“Using breakfast tacos to try to demonstrate the uniqueness of Latinos in San Antonio demonstrates a lack of cultural knowledge and sensitivity to the diversity of Latinos in the region,” the organization wrote. “NAHJ encourages Dr. Biden and her speech writing team to [take] the time in the future to better understand the complexities of our people and communities.
“We are not tacos. Our heritage as Latinos is shaped by various diasporas, cultures & food traditions. Do not reduce us to stereotypes.”
Biden apologized on Tuesday for her remarks.
“The First Lady apologizes that her words conveyed anything but pure admiration and love for the Latino community,” her spokesperson, Michael LaRosa, said in a tweet.
Janet Murguía, current president and CEO of UnidosUS, did not address the controversial remarks after the speech and tweeted that the group was “honored” to host Biden.
“She has been a great educator in, and a great amiga to, our community for years. Privileged to call her a friend,” Murguía wrote.
The first lady’s comments also drew criticism from Republicans, who had already criticized her speech at a luncheon titled the “Latinx IncluXion Luncheon” that was part of the larger conference. The term “LatinX” is not preferred by many Hispanic Americans, according to polls.
“While the Democrat Party concerns itself with utilizing unpopular terms and reducing Hispanics to stereotypes, the GOP will continue to make inroads with the Hispanic community across the state,” Macarena Martinez, a spokesperson for the Republican National Committee, said in a statement.
Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio appeared to take notice of Biden’s remarks and changed his Twitter profile picture to an image of a taco.
Biden’s comments come when the Republican party has been making gains in primarily Hispanic South Texas.
Republican Mayra Flores won a special election for the 34th Congressional District in June, a seat that Democrats had held for over a century. The 34th CD stretches from San Antonio to the Rio Grande Valley on the Texas-Mexico border.