Latin American cuisine used to raise awareness about educational needs in the community
The sounds of mariachi music filled Gym D of the Britannia Community Centre. From a door slightly ajar came the aroma of marinated beef and chicken sizzling on a grill outside.
It’s a sunny Saturday (June 9) afternoon, and members of the Latin American community have gathered for an event in this corner of East Vancouver.
The affair was organized by RAÍCES Latin American Cultural Society (raices is Spanish for ‘roots’). The group is raising funds for its project to raise awareness about the high school dropout and low postsecondary enrollment rates of youth in the community.
Before long, Will Molina, a columnist with the community paper La Re-Vista, was on the line to sample the traditional food on sale.
Molina, who came to Canada in 1989 from El Salvador, gladly described the food offerings.
“Latin American food varies so much but you can describe it in two sections: South American, and Central American and Mexican,” Molina told the Straight.
Holding a plate of his order of churrasco, the 42-year-old community journalist continued: “South American, like churrasco, uses more meat than their Central American and Mexican counterparts. Their base is meat, especially beef.”
His churrasco came with grilled beef, tortilla, black beans, sour cream, and pickled cabbage called curtido. This last one is coloured pink.
“In Central America and Mexico, we use more the corn, the beans, and these are elements that our ancestors have used,” Molina said. “In the Mexican case, hot peppers.”
Some of these hot peppers made their way to a bucket of salsa verde on the food table. Salsa verde is basically peppers and avocado, pureed into a sauce. According to Molina, it goes well with tacos and burritos.
In addition to beef and chicken, pupusas were also cooking on the grill outside. It’s a Salvadoran dish, Molina said. It’s grilled corn tortilla stuffed with refried beans, cheese, and pork. It’s served tomato sauce and pickled cabbage.
Molina also pointed to the enchilada. It’s an open-face tortilla with ground beef and veggies, parmesan cheese, tomato sauce, slices of boiled egg, and pickled cabbage.
According to Molina, many Latin American food items like the enchilada are considered as appetizers.
“Sometimes we eat too much of these appetizers that they become dinner,” Molina chuckled.
As Molina tucked into his food, the three-member group Los Dorados entertained the crowd with mariachi music.
Members of the mariachi band Los Castorcitos, who are mostly young people, also played at the event.