Together with his brother Pablo Campos and Orlando “Cricket” Miguel del Monte, Guillermo Campo opened Tacos Kokopelli, a taco stand on the streets of Tijuana. The stand, serves tacos cooked on a mesquite grill and is named after the Hopi god of fertility and mischief. Its specialty salsa is called castigo Azteca (Aztec punishment). Public Diplomacy Magazine editors Shannon Haugh and Bryony Inge caught Chef Guillermo Campo after he had given a presentation on his contribution to the culture of street food in Tijuana at the “Public Diplomacy of the Americas” conference at USC in November 2013.
Public Diplomacy Magazine: How does your food bring people together?
Guillermo Campo: Any kind of food will bring people together.
PD MAG: How about the act of cooking food over an open fire, or smoking meat? Does this kind of performance bring people together to share a common experience?
GC: Yes. Fire has always been hypnotizing and it is an element that will bring people together. Our food uses bright colors. We also like to cook healthy food and to do that, we need to use vegetables or things with different colors that bring nutrients to the body.
PD MAG: How does your food represent and communicate culture?
GC: It represents culture because it is based on Mexican food, but also we like to use some ingredients that are from around the world, like condiments from India, another part of Asia, or the Middle East. Also, I like to rescue ingredients that are from Mexico that are being lost because they are difficult to use or difficult to find. It is my way of rescuing tradition and keeping elements of culture alive through food.
PD MAG: What symbols of culture do you hope to share with people?
GC: It’s not that we try to, but we express ourselves through food and whatever comes is the essence of normal humans. We show our essence to the people through our food. If that happens to be somehow an enrichment of our city, that is good, but it is not something we try to do. It just happens.
PD MAG: What messages about Mexico do you think your food communicates to foreigners and tourists?
GC: We as Mexicans see the taco as a way of living. It is the way we eat. Everything has to go in a taco. It could be anything… To get your day going, you have to eat something and most of our culture, probably 97%, eat tacos. Probably here you eat sandwiches and hamburgers, we eat tacos. That is the way it is.
PD MAG: What has been the response of people who eat your food?
GC: The response that I like the most is when I am making a taco on the street and I give it someone and they move their head like “Mmm, this is really good,” and they say “Hey, you have to have a bite of this, just take a piece of it.” That to me is the best response I can get.