Alfonso Medina did not know a yard sign and a social media post would thrust him and his business into the national spotlight.
The 30-year-old owner of La Carreta Mexican Grill, 308 E. Iowa Avenue in Marshalltown, placed a “We Believe” sign outside of the business during the summer. Among other things the sign says “Black Lives Matter” and “Love is Love.” At least one customer took offense to the sign and sent Medina an anonymous letter, stating the sign “insults and disrespects Christianity and America.”
“We obviously didn’t think there was anything wrong with that,” Median said of the sign. “I think the majority of the world doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with it either.”
Medina posted an image of the sign and letter on his personal Facebook page with an accompanying post ending with the phrase “No love, no tacos.” He received a mostly positive response from the post including encouragement for him to print T-shirts bearing the phrase.
“It kind of went viral from there,” he said. “I knew maybe it would generate some traction and maybe some dialogue. It just went crazy from there. I’m surprised people actually read the whole thing.”
After the phrase “No love, no tacos” started catching on, Medina trademarked it and decided to print it on merchandise. Some profits from merchandise sales are put toward the Medina Family Scholarship at Marshalltown Community College, which Medina started in 2015.
The owner recently launched a website, nolovenotacos.org, where T-shirts can be found. But his top priority with the website is to call for Election Day to become a federally recognized holiday. The site includes downloadable PDF files in English and Spanish for businesses to pledge to close or close early on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 3, so their employees can vote.
Medina said he will close La Carreta and pay his regular Tuesday staff. He also plans to bring people to the polls. La Carreta employs 16 people either part time or full time.
“A lot of people are saying they’re going to the polls and voting early with ‘No love, no tacos,’ in mind,” he said. “Anybody from any political party or spectrum would agree that an election should be as fair as possible. We want the majority of people and the most people that are eligible to vote to vote.”
Earlier this month, Medina added the slogan to a billboard east of the restaurant. Passersby can see it displayed on the north side of the road on Iowa Avenue E.
The popularity of the slogan has drawn attention from around the world. Knockoffs of his T-shirts are sprouting up on eBay and his business phone has been ringing constantly. Just when the buzz started to slow it picked up again after Medina was included in a story published by CNN correspondent Gustavo Valdes on Sunday.
“The store site that we have, it just went off the hook,” he said. “We have messages from Japan to Switzerland to Australia to Canada.”
While T-shirt orders are piling up, several people have reached out just to donate. Some donations have poured in for the Medina Family Scholarship, to buy burritos to be delivered to the polls and for La Carreta to give gift cards to Emergency Food Box in Marshalltown.
Medina and his La Carreta staff are becoming used to the attention. Last December, the restaurant was included on the list of best burritos for its Burrito California by Food Network.
La Carreta hosted U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro and presidential hopeful Tom Steyer in separate events on the campaign trail earlier this year. Former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke stopped by the eatery while campaigning last year.
“I’m a believer that it doesn’t matter what you do in life. You can be a grocery bagger; you can sell burritos for a living like myself,” Medina said. “You can do anything. If you really believe in something you can make an impact. Who knows. Maybe we’ll make a good impact.”
‘NO LOVE, NO TACOS’
Learn more about the ‘No love, no tacos’ movement by visiting NoLoveNoTacos.org.
La Carreta Mexican Grill is located at 308 E. Iowa Avenue in Marshalltown. Contact 641-752-9427 or visit lacarretaiowa.com
Article by Joe Fisher courtesy of the Times Republican