Mexican Cuisine’s African Roots

As a great deal of the historical information was cut from my new book due to lack of space, I was recently asked to include some of the background on Africa’s influence on the Mexican cuisine for the University of California Press blog and though I would share it and some of the photos taken by Nacho Urquiza of an African family on Oaxaca’s Costa Chica.

Antonieta Avila Salinas's Costa Chica Family

Antonieta Avila Salinas’s Costa Chica Family
Photo by Nacho Urquiza

African Influence on Mexican Cuisine
by Marilyn Tausend

I have been traveling throughout Mexico exploring the incredibly multi-cultured cuisine of its people for the last three decades. It was, though, only since researching the history of the African presence in Mexico for my newest cookbook, La Cocina Mexicana: Many Cultures, One Cuisine, did I realize that during the many years I’ve been coming to the tree-shrouded small village of La Antigua in Veracruz, that I had often stood right in front of Mexico’s first slave market, now the site of the local school. During the seventy-five years or so after Cortés moved his small contingent of Spanish troops and other followers south in 1525 from Quiahuiztlan to this safer harbor, thousands of Africans were put on the block to be auctioned off to the highest bidder. I since have visited many places in Veracruz where these slaves were relocated, some still retaining African names such as the nearby popular resort of Mocambo which means “sorrow” in the Congo dialect.[

Some African slaves also accompanied their Spanish owners during the exploration of New Spain with apparently the first African to set foot in these new lands being on Columbus’s second expedition. Twenty years later, the first black slaves in Mexico arrived with Hernan Cortés from the West Indies.

Read the rest of the article here.

Costa Chica Fishing by Nacho Urquiza

Costa Chica Fishing
Photo by Nacho Urquiza

Barbacoa de Pescado by Nacho Urquiza

Barbacoa de Pescado (recipe page 167-168)
Photo by Nacho Urquiza

Caldo de Tichnidas, Costa Chica

Antonieta making Caldo de Tichnidas
Photo by Nacho Urquiza

TriniGourmet’s Review

Here is an excerpt from TriniGourmet’s review of La Cocina Mexicana: Many Cultures, One Cuisine.

“Not only is it a loving record of the places and people she’s encountered in over 30 years of organizing culinary tours, she writes so evocatively that you quickly feel as though those experiences are your own!

Not simply a cookbook, La Cocina Mexicana, also strives to form a historical record of the cultures and landscapes of the many regions and peoples of Mexico. Infinitely more diverse than I was aware, this is not a cookbook for those who are looking for tacos, quesadillas, or a simple bean dip. It’s not that those are not available, however, Mexican cuisine is so much more. This is after all a country of 111 million people! Tausend opens our eyes, and palates, to the dishes of such indigenous peoples as the Zapotecs, Mayans and Otomí.

She also vividly describes and elaborates on the influence of not only the Spanish and French on Mexican cuisine, but also the Africans who were brought as slaves and whose place names and descendants still populate the Veracruz region, as well as the northern Pacific coast. In providing the idiom ‘you can find ah Trini anywhere’, the Roman Catholic priest for one of these remote Afro-Mexican communities was a Trinidadian priest by the name of Father Glyn Jemmott Nelson. You can view an interesting interview with him below.”

To read the entire review, go here.