While many Hispanic residents in Los Angeles celebrate Thanksgiving with traditional American customs, others opt to do it their own way and incorporate their favorite traditions from their homeland.
Thanksgiving, one of the most important celebrations of the year, is a chance to reconnect with family living near and far.
“We always look forward to our children who are away studying, one in Washington and the other in Colorado, to come home,” Jorge Portillo, a Salvadorian living in the U.S. for 20 years, told Efe.
“Our family, which is very big, uses Thanksgiving to bring everyone together,” said Maricela Casillas, who was born in Long Beach and is of Mexican origin. “My mother was born in Sinaloa and my father in Jalisco,” she said, explaining how she learned to cook.
“Our tradition is to prepare delicious enchiladas that have to be at the table along with the turkey stuffing,” said Maricela, while demonstrating how to make their Thanksgiving enchiladas.
In many homes, the traditional Thanksgiving meal includes a turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, and pastries, like pumpkin pie and apple tarts.
But, in other Hispanic families, grilled steak, enchiladas, beans, tamales, and even bunuelos, depending on the family’s origins and the foods that they like, frequently accompany the turkey.
For example, the Martinez family, with origins in Northern Mexico, prepares their turkey stuffing using Grandmother Rosario’s “secret recipe,” and the celebration always includes beans, a very spicy hot sauce, and a comforting bowl of menudo.
For the Olarte family, whose grandparents came from El Salvador, the turkey is always accompanied by special vegetables — liked a lot by the grandparents, but not as much by the grandchildren — and other typical of Central American dishes.
For the Rodriguez family, originally from Colombia, the Thanksgiving dinner revolves around the turkey, but also includes bunuelos made from sponge cake, marking the start of the Christmas season.
“We like bunuelos, and we always incorporate them into our Thanksgiving meal,” said Niza Rodríguez, explaining how to make both the crispy and spongy type bunuelos.
“This is how we welcome in the Christmas season,” the woman said.
Beverages also vary according to the country someone is from: “aguas frescas,” or fresh fruit juices, are a must at the celebrations of Mexicans, but malts and red colas are enjoyed by many South American families.
And while many Hispanics enjoy delicious red or white wine to accompany their meal, there is always someone who will prefer the strong flavor of a Latin brand of beer.
And after dinner is all over, a cup of coffee can help keep the conversation going, or keep you alert on your way home from the party.
So, while in Los Angeles the turkey is still king, it may at times have to share its throne with a nice piece of beef, ribs, or a flavorful bowl of pozole, maybe even a hardy burrito.