Holiday Meals a La Latino: What We Bring to the Table

Latino family around a holiday table

Latino family around a holiday table

Probably your first Thanksgiving, or Acción de Gracias, was an experience as unforgettable as it was strange. Turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie…? “How can you give thanks without roast pork, pasteles, tamales, or tacos?” you may have wondered.

And what about Christmas? We celebrate “Nochebuena” December 24th, while in the United States the celebratory tradition is “Christmas Day” on the 25th. And, of course, turkey is also the star of the menu. But wait a minute, let’s not forget that some Latinos also celebrate on December the 25th, and often with a dinner full of cross-cultural foods.

For Latinos living here in the U.S., this is the time of year when culinary cultures collide, bringing together the best of our native gastronomical traditions, along with those adopted traditional American ones.  But since the dishes that we’ve grown up with, and have been passed down from generations, usually remain closest to our hearts, let’s take a look the special role they play in our holiday celebrations.

When Latin American Gastronomy Began to Influence Food in the U.S.

As explained in an essay by Dr. Jeffrey Pilcher, a history professor from the University of Minnesota, Latin food in the United States “is a product of historic encounters between people from many different lands.”  

Professor Pilcher adds that some of these encounters took place in the remote past, for example, Spanish colonizers and missionaries exchanged foods and recipes with indigenous women in New Mexico and Florida decades before the first Thanksgiving in Plymouth, Massachusetts.

The list of Latin American foods that have had an impact on the gastronomy of the United States is very long, but without a doubt, tortillas have a prominent place.

According to the Tortilla Industry Association (TIA), tortilla sales in 2015 were over 13,800 million dollars (in English: $13.8 billion).

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