On the sidelines of the Super Bowl battle between the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos is a classic immigrant success story.
It’s the food you’ll be eating as you watch the game.
The Hass Avocado Board reports that 104.2 million pounds of fresh avocados will be consumed, mostly as guacamole, in connecting with Sunday’s football game. That’s a 1202.5 percent increase from the 8 million pounds that were consumed in 2000.
What’s responsible for the surge?
Partly it’s the rising influence of Hispanic culture on America in a period that also saw the elevation of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court and the emergence of Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio as Republican stars.
Partly it’s the effect of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which, over the 10 years from 1993 to 2003, gradually eliminated the tariff on avocados imported to America from Mexico, which had been subject to a tax of 13.2 cents a kilogram. Taxes affect behavior in ways not always widely noticed.
Partly it’s the fruit (or vegetable) of a clever marketing campaign. “Guacamole and football go hand in hand,” the executive director of the Hass Avocado Board said in one Super Bowl press release, announcing the retention of legendary pro quarterback Joe Montana as a celebrity avocado spokesman.
Not to mention that mashed avocado tastes good on chips, especially when washed down with beer.
Eyeing the avocado’s Super Bowl-linked success, other immigrant dips are following suit. The hummus industry is trying to turn Super Bowl Sunday into the chickpea-spread version of what Thanksgiving is for cranberry growers or turkey farmers. Sabra, a hummus brand co-owned by PepsiCo and Israel-based Strauss group, is now “the official dips sponsor of the NFL.”
The international influence on Super Bowl snack food is just one way that immigrants and their descendants have enriched the big game. Denver Bronco’s owner Pat Bowlen’s father was Canadian. Halftime show performer Bruno Mars has a mother who is from the Philippines. Another halftime show performer, the musician Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, is from Australia. The game will be broadcast on Fox, a network controlled by Rupert Murdoch, who came to America from Australia.
What could be more American than the Super Bowl? And what could be more American than the openness to new foods and global talent that’s the story here?
Five years into the Obama administration, the politicians in Washington have failed to act to reform our immigration laws. The Democrats blame the Republicans, but the Obama administration has increased the number of deportations, as the former district attorney for New York County, Robert Morgenthau, himself the grandson of an immigrant to America, has repeatedly pointed out.
It’s disappointing. But as is so often the case, popular culture, and consumer culture, is ahead of the political culture. Eventually, the political culture will catch up, one hopes, just as it did when it eventually lifted the prohibition on beer, a drink associated with German immigrants in something of the way that guacamole is now associated with Mexican immigrants.
In the meantime, enjoy the football game on Sunday. No matter which team wins, the real winner is America, which gets better all the time by embracing the best from around the world.
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