West Africa in Mexican rice cultivation and gastronomy

“Chef Marco,” aka Marco Polo Hernández Cuevas is soon to publish a chapter titled, “West Africa in Mexican rice cultivation and gastronomy” in The Afro-Mexican ancestors and the nation they constructed (Negritud Editions). I’m excited to find the book for my library!

The [chapter] reveals that, among others, rice, rice cultivation, and a major part of rice gastronomy, arrived in Mexico in the sixteenth century from the Senegal-Gambia region of West Africa as cultural capital of the West African Ancestors who were brought to Mexico at the time. The reconstruction of a plausible history of the successful transplantation of rice to Mexico in the first half of the sixteenth century provides agency to Senegalese-Gambian women and men in the building of Mexican national crops, gastronomy and identity.

The author’s YouTube video offers a delicious comparison of West African dishes side by side with ‘traditional’ Mexican plates: Wolof rice with fried plantains and Arroz a la Mexicana con Platanos, Mole con arroz a la Mexicana and Mafe; cold Hibiscus (Bissap) tea, Tamarind tea (Puha), barbequed goat, fried Tilapia, Mutuke (tamales), Ceebu Jeen, etc.

The video credits Judith Carney’s groundbreaking history, published in 2001, Black rice: the African origins of rice cultivation in the Americas (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press). Thanks to H-Africa discussion list for notice of this interesting contribution to Trans-Atlantic cultural understanding. If you’re unfamiliar with the representation of the African Diaspora in Mexico, here’s a brief introduction by Alexis Okeowo to the history of Afro-Mexicans in “Yanga, a place that called itself ‘the first free slave town in the Americas’…named for Gaspar Yanga, a slave who had led a successful rebellion against the Spanish in the 16th century.”

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