Former U.S. Rep. Mayra Flores accused of cribbing others’ pictures of Mexican food as her own cooking

U.S. Rep. Mayra Flores, R-Los Indios, speaks at a rally in Brownsville on Nov. 1, 2022. (Michael Gonzalez For The Texas Tribune, Michael Gonzalez For The Texas Tribune)

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In a bizarre micro-scandal that some have dubbed “GrubGate,” a former GOP congresswoman who is running for her old seat in South Texas is being accused of routinely stealing photos of Mexican food from other social media accounts and passing them off as her own cooking.

Earlier this week, Mayra Flores, the first Mexican-born woman to serve in Congress, posted a photo on social media that she described as “gorditas de masa" with the caption, “the Ranch life with family is the best.”

[Republican Mayra Flores announces bid to retake South Texas congressional seat]

Soon after, a user on X, formerly known as Twitter, pointed out that that the image was previously posted on a Facebook page, “Visit Guyana,” in March 2022. Others said that the food in the photo was not gorditas de masa. That prompted the conservative website Current Revolt to dig further into Flores’ social media accounts, where they found numerous other posts in which Flores used others’ photos of campfire cooking or homemade tortillas to illustrate her own idyllic life on a ranch.

“As a proud Latina who knows how to cook, homemade Mexican food tastes better from a gas stove,” she wrote alongside one photo of eggs and tortillas on what appears to be a wood-burning stove. The photo was initially posted on Facebook in 2021 by a Spanish-language magazine.

The Tribune separately reviewed Flores’ Instagram and found at least two such instances in the last year, including one post from July in which she shared a photo of meat and tortillas on a grill with the caption, “Joe Biden is not invited to the carne asada” in both English and Spanish. A reverse image search found that the exact photo was posted a year prior by a Facebook page for tourism in Tamaulipas — the state in Mexico where Flores was born.

In another post, she praised the “simple things in life” like a “good breakfast” alongside a photo that was first published two years ago by a Mexican food photographer.

In a text message on Wednesday, Flores said it wasn’t her “intention to mislead.”

“The photo simply reminded me of my upbringing in Mexico and childhood,” she said. “I deleted the tweet to clear up any confusion. I actually spend my Christmas at ranch with my In-Laws. Happy New Year!”

Asked to specify which of the photos she was referring to, Flores suggested that the Tribune focus on “the border crisis.”

She also changed her handle on X amid the criticism and has been blocking people on social media throughout Tuesday and Wednesday who have accused her of falsely passing the photos of cooking off as her own.

“The George Santos of the [Rio Grande Valley],” wrote the campaign for U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-McAllen, who Flores is currently challenging.

Flores is running to retake the South Texas seat that she initially won in a June 2022 special election. Her win was seen by the GOP as a sign of momentum among heavily Hispanic voters there. But redistricting made the seat more favorable for Democrats in the November election, and Flores lost to Gonzalez.

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