Culinary Encounters in Latino/a Literature

Authored by: Meredith E. Abarca

The Routledge Companion to Latino/a Literature

Print publication date:  August  2012
Online publication date:  October  2012

Print ISBN: 9780415666060
eBook ISBN: 9780203097199
Adobe ISBN: 9781136221613


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Puerto Rican writer Esmeralda Santiago expresses her transcultural latinidad through childhood memories of savoring perfectly ripe guavas gathered from the fields in the Island and an adulthood reality of store bought apples and pears in New York. She writes in When I Was Puerto Rican: A Memoir:

Today, I stand before a stack of dark green guavas, each perfectly round and hard, each $1.59. The one in my hand is tempting. It smells faintly of late summer afternoons and hopscotch under the mango tree. But this is autumn in New York, and I’m no longer a child. … The guava joins its sisters under the harsh fluorescent lights of the exotic fruit display. I push my cart away, towards the apples and pears of my adulthood, their nearly seedless ripeness predictable and bittersweet.

(Santiago 1993: 14) Guavas still mark part of herself, but in New York, eating guavas has nothing to do with mastering the art of eating with the seasons and the free spirit of childhood. Guavas, like many women of Latin America – as another Puerto Rican writer, Judith Ortiz Cofer argues – are labeled exotic. Advertisers, asserts Cofer, regularly use adjectives such as “sizzling” and “smoldering” to describe both foods and Latin American women (Cofer 2005: 111). The exotic labeling of guavas diminishes but does not erase Santiago’s childhood experiences, which interconnect and inform her adulthood realities, as the trilogy of her memoirs so explicitly demonstrates: When I Was Puerto Rican (1993), Almost a Woman (1999), and The Turkish Lover (2004).

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