I just returned from a mini vacation with my two daughters to New York, we had a blast in the snowstorm and truly made the best of it!
New York is like it’s own little country, everything from the intrinsic subway system, intense food options, popular broadway shows, shopping galore (and then some), and finally to housing the insane population, I’m just in awe! My favorite was the diversity, rarely could you walk down the street without hearing at least one, but probably multiple languages, as my daughters said, ‘it’s so cool”!
I’d been to New York previously a couple of times, and what I repeatedly find myself most embracing, is the richness in the Latino culture found only there. It’s different than here in the twin cities, as it is distinct in many cities, but New York has a richer history, especially of the Puerto Rican culture. And for the first time, I took the subway to NYC’s El Barrio. (I love that it’s actually named that on the tourist maps).
At a very young age my tastebuds were introduce & fell in love with Puerto Rican cuisine, so I’ve tried my share of authentic Puerto Rican dishes, but this time, in El Barrio, I finally got to taste mofongo & alcapurrias. I tried the mofongo (yucca & plantain cooked & ‘mashed together’, with chicharron (fried pork rind, crushed), also offered with cheese or shrimp options too, I love anything with plantain so I really enjoyed it. But the alcapurria was my favorite! An oval shaped ‘ball’ made of a thick yucca batter filled with cooked ground beef in the center and then deep fried. The street window of the popular little restaurant I ate at is named “Cuchifrito” was stacked with a display of chicharron, alcaupurria, tostones, and empanadas, the place was busy with locals getting it all to go!
My visit to “El Barrio” in NYC, reminded me that so many of my experiences as a Mexican born and raised in the midwest is inevitably influenced by other Latino cultures, in my case, especially by Minnesota’s boricuas, and I so embrace that part of me. The grocery and produce of our grocery departments in El Burrito Mercado are also impacted by Puerto Rican ingredients and brands, especially Goya brand. El Burrito Mercado was the first to carry the favored brand in Minnesota and we still carry the largest Goya selection in dry, frozen, & spices. While we started out with a Mexican market, obviously, my parents quickly entwined other brands and ingredients quickly “Latinizing’ the mercado experience.
Growing up in St. Paul there were not a lot of Latinos, the primary descent was Mexican and then a small, established community of Puerto Ricans as well as other Latinos. And back then, most of the Spanish speaking Latinos, we stuck together, it was the language that brought our then small Latino community together. Things have changed since then and the communities have grown here in the twin cities, now there are organizations established for each of the many represented Latino cultures, it’s a wonderful thing! At El Burrito Mercado in the early ’80’s, one of our first cashiers (and still our dear family friend) is Puerto Rican, and now one of her younger brothers is our General Manager, Julio Arroyo. The Arroyo family is one of the several established Puerto Rican families that are not only loyal customers, key staff members, but also our dear friends! And proudly, the twin cities Puerto Rican community is large & strongly comprised of influential professionals, politicians, musicians, artists, doctors, entrepreneurs, etc. Y de corazon, my love & respect!!
I go back and forth all the time identifying myself as a Mexican American and Latina; I’m both, and I love it!
I don’t just ‘Mexicanize’ it, I “Latinize it!”