squash, tomatillos, and chiles at farmer's market

by Johnathan Maravillas, Community Member

Through food, we are exposed to the culinary artists’ culture and way of life. Similarly, to cooking competitions like Master Chef and the Great British Bake Off, I joined a competition where the chefs had to use solemnly native Mesoamerican ingredients. This opportunity came during a time in my life when I was connecting with my native roots. As a native of the Wixárica subtribe from Nayarit, Mexico, I want to invite you to find your element in Mesoamerican cuisine. Here are some vegetables whose origins you might not have realized: Squash, chiles, tomato, tomatillo, zapote, avocado, and papaya are native to the Mesoamerican region while peppercorn, cilantro, aloe vera, rosemary, lettuce, and garlic are foreign to the Americas.

Cooking the traditional cuisine of my ancestors is part of my self-care. My recovery journey started when I realized my family was not spared from generational trauma. My great, great grandparents were taught to hide and deny their Wixárica roots to prevent persecution and death. Thankfully, I have stopped the pattern and no longer pass down the shame my parents battled with for years. My son embraces his identity and takes part in native activities. Both my wife and I use traditional ways of cooking and farming that were passed down from our ancestors. We share this knowledge with our son and neighbors. From making ovens from adobe, to participating in a temascal (Mexican sweat lodge), we continue to persevere and heal our family and communities. I leave you with some food for thought. How has your cooking helped others? What dishes do you identify with and are close to your heart? What Mesoamerican ingredients will you eat today?

Jonathan Maravillas is an East L.A. native and entrepreneur. He runs his own business cleaning windows and homeschools his son along with his wife in the tradition of native wisdom. They were part of the Native Based Cultural Center which is now closed. His family is working to start a new center to teach native practices of Mesoamerica free of charge. To get involved, please contact Mr. Maravillas at (323) 404-4730.