Why Study El Sur Latino?

Why Study El Sur Latino?

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.


Before we define El Sur Latino, though, we explain why it merits attention in the study of Southern foodways. University of Mississippi professors Dr. Simone Delerme and Dr. Catarina Passidomo, and SFA Board member Alba Huerta, provide the following framework.


The Southern Foodways Alliance has always been committed to exploring and documenting the South honestly, with nuance and attention to the complexity and diversity that characterize our region. For too long, folks both inside and outside the region have seen the South (and its foodways) in ways that veer toward stereotype, that oversimplify, that elide uncomfortable or sometimes beautiful realities.

At the SFA, we understand the South, through foodways, as a contested, fluid, dynamic place comprised of people and stories that come to us from all over the world. This year, we focus on the people and stories of El Sur Latino—the Latino South—because these are the stories that increasingly represent a Southern experience.

Historical accounts document early waves of immigration to non-traditional destinations in the South, but since the mid-1980s/early 1990s, Latinos have dispersed in massive numbers, moving primarily to rural towns and large cities in the South. As a result, “the South” is the region of the United States that has seen the greatest percentage increase in Latino migration over the last decade. People of Central American, Latin American, and Caribbean descent come to the South from various parts of the country and world to live, to work, to cook and to eat.

While we will share the depth and breadth of Latino presences throughout the South this year, we know that the U.S. South is El Sur Latino, so we invite you to think of this year’s programming as part of a long and thoughtful engagement with the new South and its foodways.

—Drs. Simone Delerme and Catarina Passidomo


As a child, my parents brought me from Monterrey, Mexico, to the United States. Houston welcomed me warmly. When you’re an immigrant, you are raised, in part, by the community that accepts you. I claim my Southern Latina status proudly.

As a board member, the SFA’s El Sur Latino focus for 2017 speaks to my past and my present and marks another chapter in my life here in the United States. I’m proud that the Southern Foodways Alliance has taken the initiative, once again, to set a contemporary welcome table that showcases diversity, love, and cultural wealth.

— Alba Huerta, proprietor Julep, Houston, Texas.


*Mural by Rosalia Torres-Weiner