Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Mi Cultura and The Motherland

I'll start by saying that my Spanish is not very's something that I'm not proud of that I intend to fix. I'm from New Mexico, land of enchantment and land of confused ethnicity, apparently. We're not Mexican, though most of our families have been there before it became a state in 1912, and we're not Spaniards because most New Mexicans have never been outside of New Mexico and could not find Spain on a map. If we are Spaniards, why the high cheek bones and great grandfather named Dancing Wolf? We are a hybrid, mutts, like most Americans, we're Spanish/Native American (all different kinds for some)/Mexican/whatever else snuck in there. We are however a very proud people, for example (yeah that's the flag tattooed over my heart):
I've never met a New Mexican who was not proud of where they came from, it's something I don't see in all Americans, Texans perhaps but all I really know is that Texas is not to be messed with. New Mexico is, sadly, one of the poorest states in the country. We are on the top of the every "worst" list and last on every "best" list. What we do have is a rich, rich culture, like the Spaniards, we love our food, we love our heritage and know the value of taking it easy and spending time with family. I didn't think too hard about my ethnicity until I left home for college in Los Angeles. I was asked by my Caucasian classmates to explain myself, "What are you?", I was asked, "Why do you have such curly hair?", "Are you black?" I was thoroughly amused by these questions but found I had a hard time explaining myself. "I'm New Mexican", I'd say...that meant nothing to some people because they would tell me my English was really good or that I don't look Mexican....jeez. Anyway, I'm Spanish, Native American (Apache), and a little Irish man snuck in down the line. New Mexican. Not Latina, not Chicana, not Mexicana. My Mexican colleagues in the kitchen solidified this fact by calling me a "huera" (white girl)...fine...I could use some sun I guess. I was a little confused after being rejected by the Mexicans and found myself eager to discover Spain...the Motherland. So...I went, last September with my best friend in the world Ayla Anaya who is a half New Mexican half light colored New Mexican (which is a whole other story). This is Ayla enjoying the Mediterranean:

The Motherland!!!

We immediately discovered two things, Barcelona is the most glorious place in the world and that we were finally among our people! Hente! Though we knew less about their culture than Mexican culture it felt so right. The people were so warm, hospitable, easy going and loved their culture...hmmm sounds like New Mexico. We could not get over it! After our validation as people of Spanish decent and finding our hotel it was time to eat!!!

At first I thought Ayla was putting me through fat camp because we had a light breakfast everyday then hiked up and down the city until dinner time never stopping for a snack or happy hour. Then we found the boqueria!

The market, the heaven on earth...we ended up visiting the market a couple times popping salt cod fritters in our mouths and washing it down with fresh jugos, ooh-ing and ahh-ing at the giant tuna steaks or the crusty bread by the cheese counter, we could not get enough!

This is my favorite place in, this is my favorite place in the world (well besides my grandma's house)

The food is what really spoke to my soul even before my trip I knew there was a special connection every time I cooked up some paella at Ciudad or put a glass of tempranillo to my nose. I've found my passion and a little piece of myself in Spanish food. I'm not attempting to bring "traditional" Spanish food to LA. I'm not Jose Andres, I'm not from Spain and my Spanish is probably some messy LA, New Mexico, kitchen Spanglish but food is it's own language. And I am so eager to share my love and excitement for this wonderful cuisine!


  1. Puro Nuevo Mexico! Viva las tres amigas (even though one of us in not Nueva Mexicana).

  2. I love this. Your description of New Mexicans is right-on, güera!

  3. I'm sorry you felt like it was fat camp! My own Neuva Mexicana of Spanish decent has called me a guera...What the hell?