More than Tacos: Latin America’s Food Culture
Native American and African Influence
Many dishes and beverages today still carry many of the ingredients and techniques of our Native American/African ancestors. Nuances of common Native American staples like beans and corn are seen across Mexico and Central America in plates like pozole, tamales, and pupusas. Menudo, a popular Mexican soup, came from enslaved Africans being given scraps or the less desired meats from their Spaniard slaveholders.
Food and Identity
As a result of region's range of nations, different foods are specifically eaten in certain regions. Caribbean cuisine largely consists of seafood, largely do to the fact of the location close to the water. Simple dishes like rice may differ across different areas of Latin America. Those in Mexico may cook rice with peas while those in El Salvador mix it with red beans. In places like South America, the type of food you eat is completely dependent on the resources the land provides you. In the middle of the continent, the plains allow for an abundance of foods like Amazonian potatoes and quinoa. The southern part of the continent provides specialties like king crabs and Antarctic krill.
Latin American’s Significance in the US
The US has become a meeting ground for all these Latino cultures. Oftentimes you will see fusion restaurants that offer dishes from two different Latin American countries. These places tend to provide the best of both worlds. Latino cuisine has become widely conventional; one may not even realize their food experience is Latino. For example, nachos and a michelada at a baseball game gives a fundamental experience like popcorn and coca-cola do at a movie theatre. The hashtag #TacoTuesday, that has been around for years, is so ingrained in US culture, many restaurants have adopted the trend to produce tacos at a discounted price. Viral hashtags and simplified versions of Latino food just proves this isn’t a trend and the love for Latino food is here to stay. It’s hard not to spot a taco spot on street corners in California. Regional parts of the US have appreciated the cuisines that Americans have incorporated into their own local dishes. The rise of Tex-Mex in the 1900s shows just that; it’s popularity has become implanted itself as a part of American culture. The popularity of Mexican food made it hard to keep the two cultivations separated and it only made sense to call it as one.