Mexican-Style Dress, about 1960


When the Cuellar family opened a new restaurant or organized a special event at one their El Chico restaurants, a female member of the extended family would wear a Mexican style dress and welcome guests as “Miss El Chico.”

This two-piece dress consists of a silk blouse and a long, sequined skirt which features the Aztec eagle and the red, white, and green colors of the Mexican national flag. The Aztec calendar, the national symbol of Mexican Pre Colombian past, is also represented in sequins. It was made by the Cuellar brothers’ Aunt Yolanda in Mexico City.

After migrating with her family from Mexico to Texas in the 1890s, Adelaida Cuellar began selling her handmade tamales at her county fair. In 1928, she opened a neighborhood restaurant, which her family expanded in the 1950s into the El Chico Tex-Mex restaurant chain. From the 1960s to the ‘80s, El Chico was also one of many companies marketing its own brands of canned and frozen foods to be distributed through grocery stores. By the 1990s, the Cuellars owned more than 100 El Chico restaurants.

The Cuellars were among the early entrepreneurs who helped transform Tex-Mex food into the most popular and widespread form of Mexican American cuisine. Hundreds of Tex-Mex-style restaurants opened across the United States, competing with other regional variations such as Cal-Mex, Sonoran Mex, and New Mex–Mex. Tex-Mex imitators thrived in small restaurants and fast-food chain outlets such as Taco Bell. Central American restaurants also added familiar Tex-Mex dishes and drinks to their menus.

Date Made: 1960-1980

Location: Currently not on view

Subject: Food Culture


See more items in: Home and Community Life: Ethnic


Exhibition Location:

Credit Line: gift of John A Cuellar

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: 2011.0156.13Catalog Number: 2011.0156.13Accession Number: 2011.0156

Object Name: skirt

Physical Description: fabric; silk; glass; thread; plastic; string (overall material)Measurements: overall: 36 1/4 in x 44 1/2 in; 92.075 cm x 113.03 cm


Record Id: nmah_1416351

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