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Oral Histories

The SFA oral history program documents life stories from the American South. Collecting these stories, we honor the people whose labor defines the region.

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Sandra Gutierrez

Born in Philadelphia, Sandra Gutierrez was raised by her Guatemalan parents in Guatemala City. As a young woman, she helped in her grandmother’s kitchen, learning how to cut, dry, and toast chilies; pat tortillas into shape before toasting them in a comal; and prepare the meats and sauces that filled the family’s cazuelas. In 1985, she moved to Durham, North Carolina with her husband. After a decade in Toronto, they resettled in the North Carolina’s Research Triangle. In 1996, on a whim, she applied for an editorial position at the Cary News, where she wrote the Southern food column for eight years. She noticed local home cooks mixing Southern and Latino flavors—chipotle added to barbecue sauce and pimento cheese; guacamole on pulled pork sandwiches—a development she called the New Southern Latino Movement. That movement gave its name to the title of her first book: The New Southern-Latino Table, published in 2011. Since then, she has written books on Latin American street food, empanadas, and beans. She was also the subject of a Smithsonian exhibit. Through her work, Gutierrez has established herself as a leading authority on the cross-cultural currents of Southern and Latino flavors.

Date of interview:

Rien Fertel

Kate Medley

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The Southern Foodways Alliance drives a more progressive future by leading conversations that challenge existing constructs, shape perspectives, and foster meaningful discussions. We reconsider the past with research, scrutiny, and documentation.


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