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In Spanish, it’s known as “Feliz Dia de Accion de Gracias” or el “Dia de Las Gracias.” Although it’s not a holiday celebrated in Latin America, Thanksgiving has resonated with Hispanics in the United States because of two vital components in Latino culture: family and food.
Latino households across the country will serve Hispanic dishes alongside Thanksgiving classics like mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce, blending their own culture into the “traditional” American holiday.
“Last year, I spent it at my sister’s house and we had ham, pasteles, yam, stuffing and Mexican rice alongside the turkey,” says Baltimore, Maryland resident Elianne Ramos. She works as the Vice-Chair of Marketing and PR for Latinos in Social Media .
Of course, not every Latino household is the same.
“It’s all about food, family and fiesta. We eat, drink, play bachata, merengue and dance,” said Ramos, “We live in different states, so Thanksgiving is one of the few times a year when the whole gang gets together. It's great.”
As the population of Latinos continues to grow so does the exchange of food and culture at the dinner table, especially during the holidays.
Chef Jezabel Careaga, owner of Gavin’s Cafe - an Argentinean restaurant in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - has seen her non-Hispanic customers embrace Latino food over the last year. Her business has never been better.
“About 75% of my customers are non-Latino and I was surprised by that,” said Careaga. “The neighborhood really loves the homemade empanadas and alfajores (dulce de leche-filled cookies). My customers ordered over 12 dozen for Thanksgiving to bring to hostesses as appetizers.”
Philadelphia’s Latino population, although growing, is still only at 7.9%, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.
Last year, Careaga had to invest many long days into promoting her empanadas recipe. This year, business has been going so well, she hasn’t had time. She bakes her empanadas with multiple fillings, but her ground beef with boiled eggs, seasoned with chilli powder and paprika (don’t forget the raisins!) have become a local favorite in the Fitler Square neighborhood.
“In my familia we have always incorporated Colombian holiday dishes into the traditional thanksgiving feast,” said Claudia Castillo, a Brooklyn-based food blogger. “The first turkey I ever had in this country was stuffed with ground pork, chicken, the turkey meat and vegetables.”
The Anthon family of Wellington, Florida were invited for Thanksgiving dinner by their Caucasian neighbors. They were asked to bring Maria’s famous Argentinean empanadas, along with her homemade salsa.
Angel Canales, from Puerto Rico, spent his Thanksgiving last year in West New York, New Jersey. There, he and his Cuban and Ecuadorian friends were surrounded by turkey and signature Cuban dishes like yuca and congri, a dish of rice and beans.
The Diaz-Garcia Family of New Jersey will be making empanadas, tres leches cake, lasagna, mac 'n' cheese and rice for Thanksgiving. “We save the more traditional Salvadoran foods for Christmas,” said Mary Diaz.
A little extra flavor is what truly makes it a holiday to be thankful for.
What will you be adding to your Thanksgiving spread that incorporates your Hispanic culture? Let us know!