Defining El Sur Latino | Cecilia Polanco

In 2017, SFA explores El Sur Latino. To approach a multidimensional understanding of this moment in the U.S. South, we’ve enlisted over a dozen scholars, artists, writers, and entrepreneurs to reflect on what “El Sur Latino” means to them. Today, Smith Symposium Fellow Cecilia Polanco describes the complexities of Latinx identities.

Image from So Good Pupusas on Instagram.

Food is geography, and geography is political. Through food we can learn about who is present where, and perhaps even for how long. We learn about where borders exist and where they have crossed or been crossed, and by whom.

Food helps me define who I am, and in exploring the food practices of Latinx* people in the South, we are putting a lens to a diaspora sometimes gone overlooked. At the intersection of Latinx and south, we may find some familiar tastes and smells, and we may experience some altogether new.

El Sur Latino is an intersectional approach to the South which will highlight the culinary spirits of Latinx people, providing an opportunity for them to tell us who they are. Our job is to listen, and as is the commonplace for us food people, eat.

We have to understand that Latinidad is immensely diverse, and therefore unfit for a homogenous description. And, because people can define themselves however they want, as Latinx, Hispanic, Salvadoran-American, et cetera, we can’t assume who does or does not identify as Latinx.

What we will do is give the Latinx culinary world a platform, and as an organization that champions oral histories, let them tell us their stories while having the privilege of experiencing them first hand through food. Latinx may mean different things in different regions of the country, and by exploring the Latinx South, we will be learning not only about the contributions of immigrant peoples’ to the rich culinary history of this region, we will in effect be learning about ourselves. Let the expansion of mind and pallet begin.

*Latinx is an emerging term used as a more inclusive option than Latina/Latino, to allow for inclusion of more gender/ethnic identities.

Cecilia Polanco is a 2016 graduate of UNC, where she received a degree in Global Studies. The summer of her junior year she launched So Good Pupusas, a food truck and catering company whose mission is to support culinary entrepreneurs and provide scholarships for undocumented students pursuing undergraduate degrees.