Pedro’s Tex-Mex Cantina is a fantastical shack near a ring road in Norwich. It was recently asked to stop handing out sombreros at the University of East Anglia Freshers’ Fair, because anti-racist activists (henceforth known as ‘morons’) at the UEA Freshers’ Fair reckon the sombrero is racist, and gave the staff of Pedro’s Tex-Mex Cantina a lecture about ‘cultural appropriation’, which they took well; that is, they did not set fire to the UEA Freshers’ Fair, which is what I would have done.
This is where we are with progressive politics, Spectator reader, although I think you knew that anyway. Anyone who thinks wearing a sombrero is racist — rather than suave, because the usual student headgear is still the traffic cone — needs an education in the true nature of racism, and should visit Ferguson or Tower Hamlets, instead of wondering if Yad Vashem should do millinery, and calling, however obliquely, for ‘white culture for white people’, because they are morons. I was overcome by a dark longing to wear a sombrero and vomit all over Twitter. Perhaps I can persuade the editor of this magazine to offer every subscriber a sombrero and a stick-on Zapata moustache? Perhaps we could rename the UK ‘El Sombrero’? It is obvious that racism will not be eradicated by banning the sombrero. Polemically speaking, it is a straw hat, and we all know it.
Anyway I was so angry I went to Norwich in solidarity with the sombrero, a hat too often maligned because, on the right face, it can be terrifying. Norwich is, as you know, a city famous, at least in Jewish circles, for a medieval pogrom — was anyone wearing a sombrero? It has a re-pointed Norman castle on a boob-shaped hill; many Georgian houses; and a market selling principally baskets.
Pedro’s Tex-Mex Cantina is a wooden house, alone in its park; its sign — ‘Open All Day Saturday from 12 noon’ is in Labour colours, which might confuse the morons; Pedro’s Tex-Mex Cantina is, in signage terms, wearing borrowed robes. It reminds me, for some reason, of the Mos Eisley Cantina in Star Wars even if the exterior is pointy, Swiss and vaguely Heidi; and also of Casablanca. It is a place out of time. Inside, it is a Tex-Mex theme park: dull gold walls with red and green stripes for the Mexican flag; wooden booths; paintings of cactus; a saddle; a plastic buffalo; a plastic lizard; a wooden lizard; masks; fans; a random guitar; an excellent painting of a man in a sombrero (racist bastard); many, many sombreros. One table, set for 12, has a sombrero at each place setting, like a gun, or a racist novelty item, perhaps a balloon or whistle, celebrating the Confederacy; on the wall is an ornamental sombrero in mauve velvet. It is a taunt. A couple suck cocktails in tandem; their sombreros touch.
Now I am here, what to do? I ask the staff about the ‘incident’. They are discreet, but they giggle; their eyeballs roll up the walls towards a plastic lizard. I order a non--alcoholic mojito, or ‘faux-hijo’, and read the menu, which is large, gaudy and dedicated to getting the more racist elements of Norwich as drunk as possible on Pedro’s party jugs without the need for hospitalisation, due to the application of huge amounts of meat. I can’t face nachos, mucho nachos, combo dinners or classic Pedro’s stacks, so I order sizzling chicken fajitas, which I eat while wearing my sombrero and taking selfies. They are huge, doughy and excellent. I ask the party next in the next booth if they have heard of the racist sombreros and, if so, what do they think. ‘Fucking morons’ is their summary. We eat the sizzling chicken fajitas near the ring road of fear.