From El Paso to Corpus Christi to Central Texas, taco journalist Mando Rayo and Jarod Neece will be taking their audience on a taco journey at SXSW Interactive. I spoke with Rayo, CEO of Mando Rayo + Collective, about his upcoming panel and how he made his passion for tacos into a book and career.
Describe your background and how your passion for taco journalism began.
To sum it up, Mando Rayo describes himself as a marketer of his own company, Mando Rayo and Collective, by morning, and taco journalist by night. “I was born and raised in Texas, in El Paso actually. Being Mexican-American, it’s (tacos) part of our daily diet, it’s what we eat, whether its for family gatherings or for breakfast, we almost eat everything with a tortilla. Just writing the journalism part to it– Tacos of Texas – happened by chance. It was an opportunity for me to talk about my culture, food, and really uncover some of the stories of the vaqueros (cowboys) and abuelitas (grandmothers) that you don’t really hear about – you don’t hear their stories.
What led you to pursue a career path towards taco journalism (without revealing too much detail for your upcoming panel)? Was a taco tour something you imagined yourself doing 10 years ago?
“I want people to understand the complexities of Latino culture, or understanding the Mexican culture. Tacos are mainstream, they’re always trending. I want people to know more, and to acknowledge where it comes from so they can know more about our culture. When you take a bit of that taco, not only is it good, but it’d be even better if you knew their story and know where it comes from.
No not really, it happened, I’ve been writing for 10 years. For me it was an opportunity to share through blogging, but then it developed into a profession, which is awesome; if you want to create your own job, what better way to do it while eating tacos. (During the Taco Tour) We tried restaurants and food trucks, and mainly introduced different types of tacos.
America’s version of a taco is like Taco Bell, so what I wanted to do with these tours is to show other kinds of tacos such as: traditional tacos, Tex-Mex tacos, fusion taco, etc. We try to show the diversity of the taco, in other words.”
What is Mando Rayo + Collective? Describe your role.
“I am the founder and CEO of MR+C, a marketing agency in Austin, and we focus on the multi-cultural marketplace. We tell stories and connect non-profits and other brands and we really focus on the people of color and multi-cultural communities through food, through story telling, and causes.”
Describe a regular day in the life of Mando Rayo.
“It starts with eating breakfast tacos. I’m a home cook, so I make breakfast for my kids, which is most likely tacos, or I go buy them tacos on the way to school. I start my work day trying to figure out deadlines and what needs to be done. Coffee, there is definitely a lot of coffee involved. A couple of brainstorms depending on what project I’m working with. If I have a business meeting, it’s probably at a taco place. The best way to introduce someone to a culture is through food. At the end of the day, my family and I will go outside and enjoy the trails.”
What advice would you give someone who wants a job in the digital/media or journalism field?
“I would say to go out and do it, experiment. We have the tools; you have your phone, you can story tell through interviews, videos, or taking photos. Going out there and meeting new people is the way to go. You don’t have to have the perfect strategy, but just by going out there and experiencing in real life would be the way to learn.
In the same sense that can translate to your digital space if you’re in digital media; using video, audio, photos. If you’re in digital space, people don’t like the polished approach, people want to know if that’s a real person behind that (picture/profile).”
What is your ultimate career goal? Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
“My ultimate career goal is doing something that I love – following my passion, food, culture, and people. It might be a different approach because I have my own company, but in ten years I see myself still eating tacos.”
When and Where:
Friday, March 10
5:00 – 5:30 p.m.
Austin Convention Center – Room 10AB / 500 E. Cesar Chavez
Find out more: The Tacos of Texas