Latin America is comprised of settler states that continue to uphold anti-black and anti-indigenous sentiments and racism. As a result, many Indigenous and African/Black influences are often left out of the Latin American discourse—that continues to center and uphold colonial imperial ideologies. Of course this definitely includes staple cuisines that have become internationally recognized and associated with Latin American countries. In this article, we will discuss the traditions of one of the most common drinks that we associate with Latin American cuisine--horchata.
We are mostly aware of the Mexican horchata which is made similar to what is now marketed as a dairy-alternative, rice milk. Of course, there are other ingredients utilized to make horchata other than just rice milk, and these are dependent on the Mexican region and/or family recipes. However, in this article we highlight the Salvadoran horchata which is made from semilla de morro, because it made of seeds that resemble the texture of the original horchata that traces its roots to Africa.
As further explained in The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets, horchata traces its origin to Africa and it still is a common drink that is made from tiger nuts. Tiger nuts (Cyperus esculentus) or also commonly known as Yellow Nutsedge are also powerful health foods that protect and heals our bodies’ intestinal-tract system. Since they are loaded with resistant starches, their consumption allow us to accumulate healthy gut bacteria that helps fight against diseases or bacterial infections. They are loaded with healthy vitamins and minerals and their natural sweetness allows us to consume healthy and natural occurring sugars that are not as addicting to genetically modified sugars. As a result of past colonial history, this drink made from tiger nuts (originating in Africa) made its way to Spain (est. 1000 AC) where it became known as horchata de chufa. As a result of Spain’s colonial history, this drink made its way to Latin America- in particular Mexico where it has become a staple as noted before in this article.
Due to the consistency and texture of horchata de chufa, when we research for the horchata in Latin America that holds a consistent closest or resembling the most to its origin form, we find ourselves in the Salvadoran cuisine section. Salvadoran horchata, which upholds closer to its African influences, is made from semilla de morro (Crescentia alata), seeds from a fruit that allow it to get some natural sweetness and rough texture. You can watch the Salvadoran horchata process making and its ingredients below—as you will see, the recipe consists of other nuts and rice.
It is important to bring attention to the origins of drinks and other foods that have become a staple in Latin American cuisine, as Latinidad, a term or concept meant to unify all people from Latin American heritage or ancestry, continues to ignore and deny African/Black/Indigenous roots and silence their voices in these discourses. Also, Central American discourses are often ignored in the overall Latinx discourses. That is due to how Latinidad centers Mexican hegemony, over other discourses and histories.
Origins of foods also allow us to address food sovereignty issues, as our access to some traditional foods is impacted and impaired due to climate change, displacement, and other environmental impacts.
Do you know of other Latin American cuisines or staple foods that have African/Black roots? Drop your comments below.
Goldstein, Darra. The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets. Oxford ; New York: Oxford University Press, 2015.
Bamishaiye, Eunice I., and Bamishaiye, O.M. “Tiger Nut: As a Plant, Its Derivatives and Benefits.” African Journal of Food, Agriculture, Nutrition and Development 11, no. 5 (2011): 5157–5170.
Rios, Montserrat, Fani Tinitana, Pablo Jarrín-V, Natalia Donoso, and Juan Carlos Romero-Benavides. ““Horchata” Drink in Southern Ecuador: Medicinal Plants and People’s Wellbeing.” Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 13, no. 1 (2017): 18.
“Historic, Healthful Drink from 13th Century Valencia Available in U.S. For First Time.” PR Newswire, 2014.
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