Have you ever wondered how the burrito got its name? If you remember your high school Spanish, you may recall that the suffix -ito means “little” and that burro means “donkey.” If you’re thinking that “little donkey” is a weird name for a food, you’re not the only one. And the truth is that we don’t know exactly who first made burritos or why they called them “little donkeys.” But we do know that they are delicious, and they are one of our most popular items here at Los Primos.
Burritos have three common origin stories. Check out each of them and decide which you think is true!
The only story that puts a name to the inventor of the burrito dates from the Mexican Revolution. Juan Méndez was a street vendor in Chihuahua, Mexico, in the 1910s who wanted to keep his food warm on the road. He wrapped his meal in flour tortillas, which not only kept it warm but also made it easier to transport on his donkey. He discovered that wrapping his food in a tortilla was also a great way to eat it! The association with donkeys lead to the name burrito, or little donkey.
The people of Sonora, a state in northwestern Mexico, needed a food that was easy to travel with, so they invented the burrito. The first burritos were not stuffed with as many ingredients as they are today, but they were still the same basic idea. And because the people of Sonora often traveled with donkeys, they took to calling their traveling food “little donkeys” after them.
For this final story, we return to Chihuahua but fast forward to the 1940s. An unnamed street vendor in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua’s most populous city, wrapped food in tortillas to sell to children at a nearby school. He named the food after his nickname for the children, burritos, which was slang for “slow” or “dimwitted.” Whether this was an affectionate nickname or he really thought the kids were dim, we don’t know for sure.