Things That Matter

How Mexico’s Most Popular Dishes Came To Be

Mexican food is as diverse as it is delicious. Full of flavors, spices, special sauces and other fresh ingredients, it simply cannot be matched anywhere in the world. In fact, Mexican food is a complex cuisine with roots that go back to the Aztec and pre-Aztec civilizations that practiced advanced agriculture techniques and cultivated a wide variety of specialty crops. Later, influences from Europe and other parts of the globe also found their way into the Mexican mix. The result? Sabor sin igual!  Now that Mexican food has conquered the entire globe, let’s take a look at the history of some of the most popular dishes and learn some fun facts about each one!

Tacos

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While tacos are now the most famous of Mexican foods, they are actually newcomers. Taquerias were born in the working class neighborhoods of Mexico city in the 19th century as quick and cheap restaurants. The many varieties of taco are a result of the different flavors of different parts of the country coming together for the first time.

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Fun Fact:

The taco itself was named after the folded paper explosives used in the silver mines of Mexico during that period. When you think about the spice punch that a good taco packs, that actually makes a lot of sense!

Enchiladas

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Historians believe that the art of making enchiladas dates back to Mayan times. By rolling a tortilla around a meat filling you can then add sauce to the top layer. Add cheese on top of that and you have created heaven on earth! Thanks Maya!

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Fun Fact: 

The word enchilada literary means to “add spice to” (enchilar). That’s because the original enchiladas were dipped entirely in chili sauce before being eaten! There are now more than a dozen specific kinds of enchiladas from across Mexico and the American Southwest.

Menudo

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The history of menudo goes back to the hacienda period of Spanish control of Mexico. When the rich landowners would throw a party, they would kill a cow, take the prime cuts of meat, and then throw out the organ meats. The peasants would often save these meats, especially the stomach (tripe) and have their own party!

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Fun Fact:

Menudo parties are still an integral part of modern Mexican culture. Births, Christmas and many other family gatherings are celebrated by cooking up a huge pot of menudo for all the guests! Yum!

Burritos

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The origin of the burrito is actually hotly contested. Some claim it was invented in the USA by Mexican immigrants (San Francisco’s Mission District to be exact) while others say it actually originated in northern Mexican as a traveling meal. In either case, it was definitely an immigrant staple and is actually one of the most recent of Mexican dishes (a 20th century invention).

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Fun Fact: 

 Burritos are much more popular in the USA than in Mexico. In fact, you really won’t find burritos at all in many parts of Mexico!

Guacamole

 

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Guacamole is one of those dishes that will never go out of style. In fact, the modern day recipe for guacamole is almost exactly the same as the one used by the Aztecs. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

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Fun Fact:

Guacamole was actually believed to be a potent aphrodisiac by the Aztecs. With lots of garlic, chile, and lime, it does have everything you need to rev that circulation up!

Quesadillas

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Quesadillas are a staple all over Mexico. But many don’t know that the stringy “Oaxacan” style cheese used in them was actually introduced by Dominican monks from Spain. Other ingredients, especially pork, were also introduced at later times.

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Fun Fact: 

Quesadillas can be eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner, and also as an in between meals snack! While flour tortillas are more common in the USA, most parts of Mexico prefer corn tortillas.

Flan

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The history of Mexico’s most famous dessert actually goes all the way back to ancient Rome. A custard made from combining eggs and cream and cooking till thick, flan was actually popular all through the middle ages as well. Now a dessert staple in the New World, it’s safe to say that this simple but delicious dish is unstoppable!

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Fun Fact: 

While most flans are now cooked in ovens, originally flans were cooked with a flaming paddle just like French Crème Brulee.

Chilaquiles 

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Everyone’s favorite Mexican breakfast dish goes all the way back to Aztec times. Named after “green chiles” in Nahuatl, chilaquiles went through many different transformations along the way through. Ingredients like olives and queso blanco were added later as part of the Colombian exchange – the period of the 1500s and 1600s when foods crossed back and forth between Europe and the New World.

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Fun Fact: 

Many people consider chilaquiles to be an excellent cure for hangover. Try it out and let us know!

Tres Leches

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Made with condensed milk, evaporated milk and heavy cream, tres leches is the decadent delicious dessert that sweet dreams are made of. Even though it’s now popular all over Latin America, nobody is really sure of where it came from. The recipe for this hit were first printed on a Nestle evaporated milk can back in the 1960s which is why it spread far and wide so quickly.

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Fun Fact: Tres Leches cake is often topped with whipped cream and fresh fruit, especially strawberries.

Pozole

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This hearty stew made with hominy corn also dates back to Aztec times. While it now comes in many different varieties, some sources claim that it was originally made out of the flesh of sacrificed victims! Don’t let that stop you from digging in though, pozole is a true Mexican flavor blast that takes “soup” to a whole other level!

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Fun Fact:

Pozole comes in three main types: red, green and white. Each type has a very specific flavor and combination of ingredients, but are all based on hominy and are very filling in and of themselves without a main dish!

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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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