Tortilla Is Like Life: Food and Culture in the San Luis Valley of Colorado

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Overview

Located in the southern San Luis Valley of Colorado, the remote and relatively unknown town of Antonito is home to an overwhelmingly Hispanic population struggling not only to exist in an economically depressed and politically marginalized area, but also to preserve their culture and their lifeways. Between 1996 and 2006, anthropologist Carole Counihan collected food-centered life histories from nineteen Mexicanas—Hispanic American women—who had long-standing roots in the Upper Rio Grande region. The interviews in this groundbreaking study focused on southern Colorado Hispanic foodways—beliefs and behaviors surrounding food production, distribution, preparation, and consumption.
In this book, Counihan features extensive excerpts from these interviews to give voice to the women of Antonito and highlight their perspectives. Three lines of inquiry are framed: feminist ethnography, Latino cultural citizenship, and Chicano environmentalism. Counihan documents how Antonito’s Mexicanas establish a sense of place and belonging through their knowledge of land and water and use this knowledge to sustain their families and communities. Women play an important role by gardening, canning, and drying vegetables; earning money to buy food; cooking; and feeding family, friends, and neighbors on ordinary and festive occasions. They use food to solder or break relationships and to express contrasting feelings of harmony and generosity, or enmity and envy. The interviews in this book reveal that these Mexicanas are resourceful providers whose food work contributes to cultural survival.
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Editorial Reviews

Oral History Review
Counihan's work represents an important contribution to Mexican American culture.
— María Beltrán-Vocal, DePaul University, Chicago
Oral History Review - María Beltrán-Vocal
Counihan's work represents an important contribution to Mexican American culture.
Digest: A Journal of Foodways and Culture - Cynthia Egan-Kiigemagi
Counihan's book is well written and will appeal to a wide spectrum of readers...I would recommend this book to those whose interests lie in foodways, gender studies, ethnography and folklore. A Tortilla is Like Life would be a good addition to any reading list, and a beneficial resource for those who desire to understand the complex associations of gender, food, culture and ethnicity.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780292719811
  • Publisher: University of Texas Press
  • Publication date: 11/15/2009
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

CAROLE M. COUNIHAN is Professor of Anthropology at Millersville University in Pennsylvania. She is the author of Around the Tuscan Table: Food, Family, and Gender in Twentieth Century Florence and the co-editor of the scholarly journal Food and Foodways.
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Table of Contents

Preface
Acknowledgments

Chapter 1. "I Did Do Something": Food-Centered Life Histories in Antonito, Colorado
Why Antonito
Methodology: Food-Centered Life Histories and Testimonios
History of Antonito
Antonito Today
Study Participants
The Ethnographic Process
Helen Ruybal and Carole Counihan on Ethnography
Conclusion

Chapter 2. "The Stereotypes Have to Be Broken": Identity and Ethnicity in Antonito
Antonito: An Insider/Outsider Perspective
Janice DeHerrera on Antonito
Language and Education, Spanish and English
Teddy Madrid on Freedom of Speech
Ramona Valdez on English and Spanish
Helen Ruybal on Learning English and Being Smart
Teddy Madrid on Learning English from the Presbyterians
Ethnic, Gender, and Religious Identity
Ramona Valdez on Ethnic Terminology
Teddy Madrid on the Connection with Spain
Discrimination and Prejudice
Helen Ruybal on Discrimination
Teddy Madrid on Multiple Identities and Axes of Prejudice
Ramona Valdez on Religious and Anti-Hispanic Prejudice
Bernadette Vigil on Chicano Consciousness
Teddy Madrid on Identity, Terminology, and Prejudice
Conclusion

Chapter 3. "Part of This World": Meanings of Land and Water
Introduction
History of Land: Acquisition and Loss
Helen Ruybal's Land Acquisition and Sale
Land and Its Meanings
Monica Taylor's Dream of Land, Family, and Place
Monica Taylor's Perceptions of the Land
Ramona Valdez on the Meanings of Land
Teddy Madrid on Land, Home, and Family
Water in the Southwest
The Multiple Meanings and Uses of Water
Teddy Madrid on the Traditional Uses of Water
Teddy Madrid on Water as a Commodity
Janice DeHerrera on Water as a Commodity
Monica Taylor on Water as Life
Conclusion: Land, Water, Place, and Chicano Cultural Ecology

Chapter 4. "Anything You Want Is Going to Come from the Earth": The Traditional Diet
The Locally Produced Subsistence Diet
Ramona Valdez's Food Narrative
Meat: Domesticated and Wild Animal Foods
Helen Ruybal on Raising Cattle and Beef
Teddy Madrid on Fishing, Hunting, and Making Jerky
Cultivated Foods: Grains, Beans, Vegetables, and Fruits
Asuncionita Mondragon on Her Grandparents' Garden in La Isla
Teddy Madrid on Food Production in Las Mesitas
Bernadette Vigil on Red and Green Chili
Gathered Plant Foods and Medicines
Helen Ruybal on the Importance of Piñon in Her Family
Teddy Madrid on Gathering Wild Foods in Las Mesitas
Ramona Valdez on Healing Herbs
Conclusion: Food, Place, and Culture

Chapter 5. "We've Got to Provide for the Family": Women, Food, and Work
Production, Reproduction, and Gender
Helen Ruybal's Story of Courtship and Marriage
Gender Expectations and Practices
Teddy Madrid on Her Family's Flexible Gender Division of Labor
Monica Taylor on the Strong Women in Her Family
Helen Ruybal on Gender Relations and Ideals
Women and Food Work
Teddy Madrid on Food Preservation
Monica Taylor on Gardening and Preserving Food
Janice DeHerrera on Food Preparation
Earning Money with Food
Helen Ruybal on Making and Selling Cheese
Ramona Valdez on Working in the Fields
Celina Romero on Working as a Cook and Field Hand
Asuncionita Mondragon on Raising Poultry and Selling Eggs
Balancing Work and Home
Teddy Madrid's First Paycheck
Teddy Madrid on Being a Working Woman
Janice DeHerrera on Balancing Job and Home
Conclusion

Chapter 6. "It's a Feeling Thing": Cooking and Women's Agency
Cooking and Agency
Teddy Madrid's Cooking Adventures
To Cook or Not to Cook
Helen Ruybal's and Her Sister's Different Approaches to Cooking
Janice DeHerrera's Cooking Expectations
Cooking, Self-Expression, and Emotional Connection
Janice DeHerrera on Creativity and Cooking
Janice DeHerrera on Cooking as Emotional Communication
Cordi Ornelas's Paella
Learning and Teaching Cooking
Janice DeHerrera on Learning How to Cook
Monica Taylor on Learning to Cook and the Family Biscochito Recipe
Cooking and Gender
Teddy Madrid on Cooking after Marriage
Helen Ruybal on Her Husband Cooking
Monica Taylor on the Chili Wars
Conclusion

Chapter 7. "Meals Are Important, Maybe It's Love": Mexicano Meals and Family
Family in Antonito
Janice DeHerrera on Family Ties versus Individual Ambition
Teddy Madrid on Her Father's Family Charge
Mexicano Family Meals
Martha Mondragon on Family Meals and Television
Janice DeHerrera on the Importance of the Family Meal
Meals and Gender Roles
Janice DeHerrera on Restaurants, Her First Communion, and Family Gender Power
Meals, Socialization, and Respect
Janice DeHerrera on Meals in Her Family of Origin
Martha Mondragon on Grace before Meals
Teddy Madrid on Family Meals, Respect, and Socialization
Asuncionita Mondragon on Teaching Spanish at Family Meals
Conclusion

Chapter 8. "It Was a Give-and-Take": Sharing and Generosity versus Greed and Envy
Cooperative Labor Exchanges
Cordi Ornelas on Work Parties
Yolanda Salazar on Making and Selling Tamales
Sharing and Generosity
Asuncionita Mondragon on Sharing Food with Neighbors
Helen Ruybal on Sharing Honey and Meat
Greed and Envy
Carmen Lopez and Helen Ruybal on Sharing, Cuzco, and Envidia
Helen Ruybal on Envy
Envy and Witchcraft
Helen Ruybal on Witchcraft, Curanderas, and Envy
Conclusion

Chapter 9. "Come out of Your Grief": Death and Commensality
The Wake
Cordi Ornelas on Foods at the Wake
Helen Ruybal on Death, Velorios, and Funerals
Food Gifts for the Bereaved
Janice DeHerrera on Food and Death
Martha Mondragon on Death and Food Sharing
Farewell Dinners
Yolanda Salazar on Death, Community, and Commensality
Helen Ruybal on Farewell Dinners
Rending and Mending Community
Helen Ruybal on Different Funeral Traditions
Teddy Madrid on Presbyterian Funeral Feasts
Janice DeHerrera on the Meaning of Food at Funerals
Conclusion
Chapter 10. "Give Because It Multiplies": Hunger and Response

Poverty and Food Insecurity
Bernadette Vigil on Caring and Hunger
Janice DeHerrera on Traditions of Sharing Food
Traditional Foodways, Sharing, and Making Do
Teddy Madrid on Hunger, Scarcity, and Sharing
Janice DeHerrera on Making Do with Beans, Tortillas, and Potatoes
Hunger in School
Janice DeHerrera on Hunger in the Elementary School
The Antonito Food Bank
Teddy Madrid on Presbyterian Support of the Food Bank
Janice DeHerrera on Hunger, Conscience, and the Food Bank
Conclusion

Chapter 11. Conclusion: "Our People Will Survive"
The Fourth of July Meal
Unpacking the Fourth of July Meal
Explanations for the Antonito Diet
Toward the Future

Appendix 1. Topics in Food-Centered Life Histories
Appendix 2. Categories of Analysis
Appendix 3. Population of Antonito, Conejos County, and Colorado, 1880-2000
Appendix 4. Wild Plants Used for Food or Healing in the Antonito Area
Notes
Glossary of Spanish Terms
Bibliography
Index

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