Barbacoa ( barba'koa (help·info)) is a form of cooking meat that originated in the Caribbean with the Taíno people, from which the term “barbecue” derives. In contemporary Mexico, it generally refers to meats or whole sheep slow-cooked over an open fire, or more traditionally, in a hole dug in the ground covered with maguey leaves, although the interpretation is loose, and in the present day (and in some cases) may refer to meat steamed until tender. This meat is known for its high fat content and strong flavor, often accompanied with onions and cilantro.
In the U.S., barbacoa is often prepared with parts from the heads of cattle, such as the cheeks. In northern Mexico, it is also sometimes made from beef head, but more often it is prepared from goat meat (cabrito). In central Mexico, the meat of choice is lamb, and in the Yucatan, their traditional version, cochinita pibil (pit-style pork), is prepared with pork.
Barbacoa was later adopted into the cuisine of the southwestern United States by way of Texas, which had formerly been a part of northern Mexico. The word transformed in time to "barbecue", as well as many other words related to ranching and Tex-Mex cowboy or vaquero life. Considered a specialty meat, some meat markets only sell barbacoa on weekends or holidays in certain parts of South Texas and in all of Mexico. Barbacoa is also popular in Florida, as many Mexican immigrants living there have introduced this dish. Barbacoa is also well known in Honduras.
A traditional Mexican way of eating barbacoa is having it served on warm corn tortillas with salsa for added flavor; the tacos are often eaten with diced onions, chopped cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice
It is believed that the word barbacoa comes from the mainland Taino Indians, as in the following source: