Author Archives: Miki R.

Narrowed Research Idea

I would like to focus on how the gastronomy of indigenous Latin American communities were impacted by the enforcement of European norms and ideas surrounding cuisine, health, morality, and other elements of society. I will hone in on a specific area of Latin America to examine a smaller-scale interaction between Spanish colonizers and an indigenous community, potentially by analyzing a specific case in New Spain. I think food can be an extremely meaningful piece of material culture that can show us a lot about colonial influence. While some may think that this was a simple clash of cultures that brought about an equal mixing between indigenous and Iberian techniques and ingredients, what I have learned about in this course shows that the complexities embedded within power dynamics, namely through violence and erasure, result in a far more complicated history and reality. I also may decide to focus on the chili as a specific food item to investigate, but I think I will narrow that down based on what I find to be most prevalent in the literature I encounter.

I can use the Hernán Cortéz passage in the last Victors and Vanquished assigned reading as a primary source to show how colonizers perceived the differences in culture and customs, specifically with regard to food and dress. Another primary source I could use would be Christopher Columbus’ encounter with aji chilli in the reading from Bauer’s Goods, Power, History. 

Below are some secondary sources that I found that will bolster my understanding of indigenous gastronomy and the impact of colonization and internalized sentiments of deviance or inferiority brought about by colonizers on indigenous peoples:

  • Gran Cocina Latina: The Food of Latin America, by Maricel Presilla (cookbook)
  • “Beyond Culinary Colonialism: Indigenous Food Sovereignty, Liberal Multiculturalism, and the Control of Gastronomic Capital”, by Sam Grey and Lenroe Newman
  • Que vivan los tamales! : Food and the Making of Mexican Identity, by Jeffrey Pilcher
  • “Indigenous Peoples’ Nutrition Transition in a Right to Food Perspective”, by Siri Damman, Wenche Barth Eide, and Harriet V. Khnlei

Potential Research Topic

So far this semester, I have been intrigued by the effect of European colonization on Native people’s perception towards their use of crops, agriculture, and eating habits. Obviously, we have seen how native people internalized sentiments of inferiority in relation to colonizers and therefore shifted many of their practices, and I would doubt that this did not also extend to the gastronomy of the indigenous people of Latin America. I would also analyze food and recipes as material culture to see how they have been preserved and/or lost over time.

Therefore, I would pose the question, How did the enforcement of new norms and laws throughout society by European colonizers impact the gastronomy of indigenous Latin American peoples?

What I’d like to learn

This semester, I want to gain a better baseline understanding of Latin America before, during, and after the arrival of European imperialists. Thus far, I have noticed that history courses tend to somewhat overlook how colonialism affected, and still affects the people in a variety of different ways. I think it is important to highlight not only the strategies and reasons why Europeans decided to invade Latin America, but also the full history of how Latin American peoples lives were impacted. In this, I think it is easy to paint the colonial experience as singular, generalizing how individuals and communities were conquered by colonizers; however, I would like to learn how to more intentionally study the intricacies of colonial Latin America while highlighting the variety of experiences among different individuals and communities.

More specifically, I would like to learn more about how material culture was influenced by the arrival of colonizers. While the assumption among most who study this subject is that Spaniards arrived in many communities in Latin America and imposed their way of life upon innocent people, this obviously paints the picture that the colonized lacked the autonomy and power to decide what they desired for themselves. I would like to learn more about how indigenous Latin American communities reacted to the influx of Europeans and how power, identity, and the desire for development affected the culture shifts inevitably took place.