Culture

17 Typical Christmas Foods Eaten In Latin America

Christmas in Latin America is a sensual explosion. Bright lights, loud music, kids everywhere and lots of aromatic goodness wafting out of the kitchen. The big dinner with family is usually on Christmas Eve in most of Latin America but the festivities also tend to continue on for at least a week, eventually blurring into New Years. Here are 17 of the most popular typical Christmas dishes across Latin America to give you some ideas for getting creative in your own home this holiday season.

Tamales

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Tamales are a staple life throughout the year in many different countries in Latin America but they are also one of the most prominent foods of the holiday season. Many countries make special Tamales de Navidad for the Christmas season that are easy to stack up and share with family and friends that come visit.

Pannetone

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The Latin version of the holiday fruitcake, the pannetone is found in almost every home from Mexico to Bolivia and beyond come Christmas time.  If it looks similar to the Italian Christmas fruitcake it’s because it came from the boot-shaped peninsula at some point in time, but now it is enjoyed with hot chocolate on Christmas Eve all over the new world.

Roasted Pig

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Forget the turkey (for a bit anyway), slow roasted pork is the Christmas main plate of choice in much of Latin America, especially the Caribbean. In Cuba and many other neighboring countries, the Caja China is brought out for the occasion. This is a fast but efficient way to cook a whole pig in a matter of hours and keeps all the succulent juices in the meat.

Moros y Cristianos

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Literally meaning “Moors and Christians” this black beans and rice dish is also a staple of the Christmas time feast in Cuba and throughout the Caribbean. With a hearty lard base this creamy rich dish often becomes the star of the table!

Natilla

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Originating in Spain but now a staple of the Christmas season in Colombia and many other Latin American countries, natilla is a rich dessert made from milk. Thicker than a pudding and sliceable by knife it’s decadent and simple and usually served alongside other small eats.

Bacalao

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Especially popular in Mexico for Christmas eve dinner, bacalao is salted codfish that can be prepared in many different ways. Like most traditional Mexican recipes, Christmas bacalao includes some serious heat, in this case ancho chiles.

Turkey

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An animal that was actually domesticated by the Aztecs, turkey is just as big a part of Christmas in Latin America as it is in the USA. Countries like Peru have their own al horno styles and recipes for cooking this super fowl that include local herbs and spices that really bring out the flavor of the meat.

Buñuelos

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These deep-fried fritters take different forms depending on where you are in Latin America. They are flat in Mexico for example but round as a ball in Colombia. But they are always a part of the Christmas festivities no matter where you go – try them with a slice of natilla for something extra special.

Tostones

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Also known as patacones in some parts of Latin America, these double pan-fried plantains make for the perfect chip or tortilla substitute to use for dipping. Part of the Christmas tradition in many parts of Latin America, tostones are easy and cheap to make but the art of mashing them right must be mastered.

Arroz con Leche

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Everyone’s favorite Latin desert also has a special place for reserved at the Christmas Eve dinner table. A simple rice pudding spiced with cinnamon, this easy to make treat delights both the young and old.

Lechona

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To make this traditional Colombian dish, which reaches epic popularity during Christmas time, you need to first roast a whole pig. Then you take out all the meat, shred it, mix it with rice and other veggies and spices, and then re-stuff the crispy fried skin. The result is heaven on earth.

Romeritos

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An indigenous tradition from the south of Mexico, romeritos are now a part of Christmas time feasting all over the country. Although they resemble romero (rosemary) they are actually a native wild plant known as seepweed.

Coquito

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Originally from Puerto Rico, this alcoholic beverage is similar to eggnog but with a distinctly Latin flair. Made with coconut milk, eggs, rum and vanilla, coquito is now enjoyed in many different countries around the world come Christmas time and can pack quite a punch!

Christmas Salad

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The Ensalada de Navidad is important all over Latin America but the Andean countries like Peru take it to whole new levels. Bursting with bright colored veggies, heirloom potatoes and utilizing local specialties like quinoa or huancaina sauce, Peruvian Christmas salad can often substitute for the main dish, especially for vegetarians.

Mashed Yucca

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Source: Twitter@lifegoals4me

Even though potatoes are of course from the Americas, many countries actually use the yucca as a starch just as often. Mashed yuccas are a Christmas time delight in many countries in South America, and their hearty fibrous texture blends well with a wide variety of sauces and seasonings.

Canelazo

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Popular in both Ecuador and Colombia, the canelazo is a hot herbal infused and alcohol-spiked drink made to warm up the body and ward away colds and flus. During Christmastime, canelazo is served on every street corner in cities like Quito and Bogota, which are high up in the Andes, and it makes the perfect cold season pick me up for the North American winter as well.

Cake de Ron

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This Cuban sponge cake cooked with rum and then served to the delight of all every holiday season in this island nation. Topped with a bit of ice cream cake de ron becomes a decadent treat that packs a bit of buzz-inducing punch as well.

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America Ferrera Celebrates 20th Anniversary Of Working On ‘Gotta Kick It Up’ With Sweet IG Post

Entertainment

America Ferrera Celebrates 20th Anniversary Of Working On ‘Gotta Kick It Up’ With Sweet IG Post

It has been 20 years since America Ferrera’s dream of becoming an actor back true. She took to Instagram to reflect on the moment that her dream started to come true and it is a sweet reminder that anyone can chase their dreams.

America Ferrera shared a sweet post reflecting on the 20th anniversary of working on “Gotta Kick It Up!”

“Gotta Kick It Up!” was one of the earliest examples of Latino representation so many of us remember. The movie follows a school dance team trying to be the very best they could possibly be. The team was down on their luck but a new teacher introduces them to a different kind of music to get them going again.

After being introduced to Latin beats, the dance team is renewed. It taps into a cultural moment for the Latinas on the team and the authenticity of the music makes their performances some of the best.

While the movie meant so much to Latino children seeing their culture represented for the first time, the work was a major moment for Ferrera. In the Instagram post, she gushes over the celebrities she saw on the lot she was working on. Of course, anyone would be excited to see Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt hanging out. Yet, what stands out the most is Ferrera’s own excitement to realize that she can make money doing what she loves most.

“I wish I could go back and tell this little baby America that the next 20 years of her life will be filled with unbelievable opportunity to express her talent and plenty of challenges that will allow her to grow into a person, actress, producer, director, activist that she is very proud and grateful to be. We did it baby girl. I’m proud of us,” Ferrera reflects.

Watch the trailer for “Gotta Kick It Up!” here.

READ: America Ferrera’s “Superstore” Is Going To Get A Spanish-Language Adaptation In A Win For Inclusion

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This Artist Has Been Breaking Barriers As A Non-Traditional Mariachi

Entertainment

This Artist Has Been Breaking Barriers As A Non-Traditional Mariachi

On a recent episode of ABC’s game show To Tell The Truth, three celebrity panelists were tasked to uncover the identity of a real mariachi singer.

Each contender embodied “non-traditional” attributes of mariachi culture either through physical appearance or language barriers, leaving the panelists stumped.

When it came time for the big reveal, with a humble smile 53-year-old Timoteo “El Charro Negro” stood up wowing everyone. Marveled by his talents, Timoteo was asked to perform unveiling his smooth baritone voice.

While not a household name in the U.S., his career spans over 25 years thriving on the catharsis of music.

Timoteo “El Charro Negro” performing “Chiquilla Linda” on Dante Night Show in 2017.

Originally from Dallas, Texas, Timoteo, born Timothy Pollard, moved to Long Beach, California with his family when he was eight years old. The move to California exposed Pollard to Latin culture, as the only Black family in a Mexican neighborhood.

As a child, he recalled watching Cantinflas because he reminded him of comedian Jerry Lewis, but musically he “got exposed to the legends by chance.”

“I was bombarded by all the 1960s, ’70s, and ’50s ranchera music,” Timoteo recalls to mitú.

The unequivocal passion mariachi artists like Javier Solis and Vicente Fernandez possessed heavily resonated with him.

“[The neighbors] always played nostalgic music, oldies but goodies, and that’s one thing I noticed about Mexicans,” Timoteo says. “They can be in their 20s but because they’ve grown up listening to the oldies it’s still very dear to them. That’s how they party.”

For as long as he can remember, Pollard “was born with the genetic disposition to love music,” knowing that his future would align with the arts.

After hearing Vicente Fernandez sing “Lástima Que Seas Ajena,” an awakening occurred in Pollard. While genres like hip-hop and rap were on the rise, Pollard’s passion for ranchera music grew. It was a moment when he realized that this genre best suited his big voice.

Enamored, Pollard began to pursue a career as a Spanish-language vocalist.

El Charro Negro
Photo courtesy of Timothy Pollard.

At 28, Timoteo began learning Spanish by listening and singing along to those artists he adored in his youth.

“When I decided that I wanted to be a mariachi, I didn’t think it was fair to exploit the culture and not understand the language,” he says. “If I’m going to sing, I need to be able to communicate with my audience and engage with them. I need to understand what I’m saying because it was about honor and respect.”

Pollard began performing local gigs after picking up the language in a matter of months. He soon attracted the attention of “Big Boy” Radio that adorned him the name Timoteo “El Charro Negro.”

Embellishing his sound to highlight his Black heritage, Pollard included African instruments like congas and bongos in his orchestra. Faintly putting his own spin on a niche genre, Pollard avoided over-saturating the genre’s sound early in his career.

Embraced by his community as a beloved mariachi, “El Charro Negro” still encountered race-related obstacles as a Black man in the genre.

“There are those [in the industry] who are not in the least bit thrilled to this day. They won’t answer my phone calls, my emails, my text messages I’ve sent,” he says. “The public at large hasn’t a problem with it, but a lot of the time it’s those at the helm of decision making who want to keep [the genre] exclusively Mexican.”

“El Charro Negro” persisted, slowly attracting fans worldwide while promoting a message of harmony through his music.

In 2007, 12 years into his career, Pollard received a golden ticket opportunity.

El Charro Negro
Pollard (left) seen with legendary Mexican artist Vicente Fernandez (right) in 2007. Photo courtesy of Timothy Pollard.

In a by-chance encounter with a stagehand working on Fernandez’s tour, Pollard was offered the chance to perform onstage. The singer was skeptical that the offer was legit. After all, what are the chances?

The next day Pollard went to his day job at the time and said, “a voice in my head, which I believe was God said, ‘wear your blue velvet traje tonight.'”

That evening Pollard went to a sold-out Stockton Area where he met his idol. As he walked on the stage, Pollard recalls Fernandez insisting that he use his personal mic and band to perform “De Que Manera Te Olvido.”

“[Fernandez] said he did not even want to join me,” he recollects about the show. “He just was kind and generous enough to let me sing that song on his stage with his audience.”

The crowd applauded thunderously, which for Pollard was a sign of good things to come.

El Charro Negro
Timoteo “El Charro Negro” with Don Francisco on Don Francisco Presenta in 2011. Photo courtesy of Timothy Pollard.

In 2010, he released his debut album “Me Regalo Contigo.” In perfect Spanish, Pollard sings with great conviction replicating the soft tones of old-school boleros.

Unraveling the rollercoaster of relationships, heart-wrenchingly beautiful ballads like “Me Regalo Contigo” and “Celos” are his most streamed songs. One hidden gem that has caught the listener’s attention is “El Medio Morir.”

As soon as the track begins it is unlike the others. Timoteo delivers a ’90s R&B love ballad in Spanish, singing with gumption as his riffs and belts encapsulate his unique sound and story.

Having appeared on shows like Sabado Gigante, Don Francisco Presenta, and Caso Cerrado in 2011, Timoteo’s career prospered.

Timoteo hasn’t released an album since 2010 but he keeps his passion alive. The singer has continued to perform, even during the Covid pandemic. He has high hopes for future success and original releases, choosing to not slow down from his destined musical journey.

“If God is with me, who can be against me? It may not happen in a quick period of time, but God will make my enemies my footstool,” he said.

“I’ve continued to be successful and do some of the things I want to do; maybe not in a particular way or in particular events, but I live in a very happy and fulfilled existence.”

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