Thanksgiving, Latino Style
Many of us in the United States are straddled between the culture of our parents and the U.S. culture. In this position as cultural middle-man (or middle-woman), we pick and choose holidays that simultaneously celebrate both sides of the cultural coin and do not insult either cultures. This is especially true of Latinos in the United States who exemplify the bi-cultural lives of many U.S.-born children of immigrants. With the increased presence of Latinos in mainstream culture — last year, Dora the Explorer was the first Latina to ever fly in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade — many people have asked me: How do Latinos celebrate Thanksgiving?
While many Anglo-American families view Thanksgiving as one of the few days in the year when the family comes together and gives thanks, many Latino families deem this holiday as another reason to gather the family and enjoy good music and dancing. Latin American culture is marked by its high value on family. For example, in many South American countries, it is the norm to see one’s family at least once a week—usually on Sundays. They pass this family value onto the Latino generations living in the United States. Therefore, many of these families celebrate Thanksgiving as merely another family gathering, which will be repeated on Sunday. Some Latin Americans give thanks for the aid they have received in establishing their homes in the United States, despite the increased antagonism against newcomers in this country. In contrast, their U.S.-born children see this holiday as an extra day of the week when the cousins, aunts, and uncles visit, eat, gossip, and dance.
Most Latinos celebrate Thanksgiving with a union of U.S. and Latin American style. For example, in my family, we often cook garlic-marinated turkey with a stuffing of adobo, chorizo, and green peppers. Other times, perníl, which is a roasted pig, or even a seafood dish, such as paella, have been served as the main dish. Just as there is variety in the Thanksgiving meat, there is a manifold of starch foods offered, which included mangú, yuca, mashed potatoes with gravy, yams, rice, moro, dinner rolls, pan cubano, and biscuits. While we enjoy this bi-cultural banquet, salsa and merengue music often play in the background.
Even though some Latinos do not view Thanksgiving as the one and only day of giving thanks, most Latinos celebrate its festivities with a fusion of U.S. and Latin American elements. This union of two cultures mirrors the camaraderie between the pilgrims and the Native Americans more than three centuries ago. This brief communion between the indigenous and the European populations has produced bi-cultural feasts throughout the United States.