Tag Archives: Hispanic



Quesadillas are a traditional Hispanic food that can be found in most Latin American countries and Latin American communities.  They are a flat-like food, wrapped in either flour or corn tortilla bread, and cooked with an abundance of extra ingredients, such as tomatoes, guacamole, sour cream, and cheese.  While meat is almost always used in the dish, the kind of meat used often varies.  Most often, either chicken or pork is used.

To make a quesadilla, first cook a slice of tortilla bread on a frying pan at low heat.  Only cook the tortilla bread until it’s warm to the touch and slightly golden.  After this, take the tortilla bread, and leave it to rest on a cutting board.  While it rests, take the frying pan, and use it to cook the meat that one plans on putting in their quesadilla.  It is important that one avoid shredding the meat used in the quesadilla until after it cooks.  While the meat cooks, dice up the food that one plans on using in their tortilla.  While the food varies, traditionally, sour cream, cheese, and salsa or guacamole are used in a quesadilla.  Spicy foods can be used as well, such as peppers, but are not used as often for quesadillas.  Once all the ingredients are properly diced up, place them into the tortilla bread, and wait for the meat to finish cooking.  Once it does finish cooking, place it in the tortilla bread as well.  Then, roll the tortilla into a flat, rectangular shape, and place it back into the frying pan.  Cook the quesadilla until both sides of the tortilla bread are brown, by which time it will be ready to be served.


The subject, N.S., grew up in a Hispanic family, and had a number of Hispanic recipes and foods as a result, including quesadillas.  The subject explained that quesadillas were always an excellent and versatile food for his family to make, as they were simple in instructions, didn’t take long to cook, and had a number of food items and nutrients to be a part of the meal.  The subject also explained that they could be made for any meal, and were especially good for a quick lunch in case the subject and his family were in a rush to be someplace fast.


Quesadillas likely are such an important stable in the Latin American culinary culture because of their ease of access and general nutritional value that each quesadilla has.  Quesadillas in general do not take long to make, and can be feasibly made quickly enough to create a full meal without spending too much time or worrying about how long each quesadilla will take.  Additionally, quesadillas contain a number of food stuffs that are generally valuable and nutritional, and are able to fill a number of food pyramid requirements through their consumption.

Santa Barbara Fiesta Spanish Celebration


Collector: “Do you have any specific rituals or festivals you have participated in?”

Informant: “In Santa Barbara there’s Fiesta. We celebrate the Old Spanish Days the first week of August every year.”

Collector: “How do people celebrate fiesta?”

Informant: “There are parades with dancers and Clydesdale horses. We make paper mache eggs that are filled with confetti and you place confetti over people’s heads by cracking the eggs. Eating tamales, corn on the cob. They make all kinds of tamales and Spanish drinks. We have different concerts and bands playing mariachi in the center of town.”

Collector: “Is it restricted to only a certain group of people?”

Informant: “Anyone can join in. It’s a festival for the whole town to celebrate.”


The informant is a black forty-eight-year-old woman from Santa Barbara California.


After learning about Fiesta’s rituals, I found it interesting that the informant participated in Spanish cultural events when she was black. Though she doesn’t share Hispanic ethnicity, attended Fiesta annually as a child and it is now part of her identity. Thus it can be argued that one’s culture does not come from race, but from customs and traditions one participates in. The informant said Fiesta is for the whole town to celebrate. I found it ironic that outsiders felt welcomed in Fiesta, as it is very culturally specific to the Spanish. Instead of “othering” the community, this celebration brought people together.

Folk Saying: Prende la Vela


“Prende la Vela”, meaning “light the candle”


The informant came from a partially Hispanic background. He was the keeper in the ofrenda in his house, which was used as a way to remember and pay respect to deceased family members. It was placed on top of his dresser, and had pictures of deceased relatives to represent their souls, a cross, and of course, a candle. Prayers would be said to the ofrenda for the souls. The candle was lit in order to light the path for the souls of the dead to follow, so that they could make their way towards heaven.


This particular saying is somewhat religious in nature, alluding to a Mexican folk tradition with Catholic and pre-Hispanic origins. It also feels like somewhat of a way to teach children and prepare them for the future. It’s a way of introducing them to death and the remembrance of those who have died at an early age. Moreover, it serves as a way to teach children to respect those who have died, and take part in the processes that honor them. The lighting of the candle is a simple action, but it has great connotations which may influence a child as they grow older. Out of context, it could perhaps be a way of saying “remember those who we’ve lost” or “honor those we have lost”.

Tamales with Olives


RR is one of my best friends and roommates. She is a sophomore at USC who enjoys crocheting, writing poetry, and making me laugh. 


Me: “Ok, so now, tell me the story about the olives.”

R: “(laughs) tamales with olives, Sophia. So every Christmas, it’s a tradition in my family that we make—We have tamales.

That’s like the main course of the meal on Christmas. 

And my grandma spends weeks preparing, like literally hundreds of tamales.”

Me: “What goes in them?”

R: “I’m not allowed to know the recipe because my grandma is still alive. 

When she passes away, it will pass down. 

But yeah, it’s a secret but it’s basic like masa flour. 

And then the corn husk is what it’s wrapped in. 

And then the fillings.”

Me: “Did her mom make them too?”

R: “Yeah. Or well, her mom is Italian but they grew up in Arizona 

in a Mexican community. 

But my grandpa is like Mexican Mexican (from Mexico)

But, anywho

but um, in the middle there’s red chili, and there’s green chili and it’s usually pork,

And they do an assembly line.

and then one person will put the masa in the corn husk, 

and then the other person will put the filling 

and then it’s one person’s job to put a single olive in every little tamale. 

And if you forget it, it’s bad luck 

when you eat it and a tamale that doesn’t have an olive in it. It’s bad luck.”

Me: “What does it mean?” 

R: “Well, it’s Christmas and the time of the new year. 

There’s also traditions where you eat grapes. 

So things shaped like that, like little fruits of the earth are supposed to make you have a fruitful New Year. 

And so that’s what the olives mean.”

Me: “Okay, and if you don’t get one, you’re not gonna have a fruitful year?”

R: “Not necessarily, but it’s better that you get one with one of them.”


Making tamales for Christmas is a major tradition in many Hispanic cultures. Corn was commonly viewed as the “substance of life” because God supposedly made humans from corn. In regards to the olive part, after further investigation, each tamale can be viewed as a symbol for the Holy Virgin. The olive is supposed to represent baby Christ waiting to be born (as he was on Christmas).

The ”Crying Lady.”

A is a 59-year-old Hispanic American female originally from La Junta, a small town in Southeastern Colorado. A currently works as a background detective in Phoenix Arizona.

A informed me of this folklore over a dinner discussion. I asked A if she had any folklore, specifically legends or ghost stories she would be willing to share with me.

A: So this is the story I heard as a little girl of La Llorona, the “Crying Lady.” She lost her babies somehow, and wandered through the waterways, rivers, creeks, anything where there was a bridge overhead.. So as a kid we were always told “don’t cross the bridges at night” because La Llorona would be out there trying to steal children because she doesn’t have babies of her own.. So, even as a teenager, I would not walk over a bridge at night, I would walk extra, blocks to get away from the waterways just because it was too creepy to try to walk over it.

Reflection: The rendition of the La Llorona legend that A was told as child is consistent with the American Hispanic South-West understanding of La Llorona as a scare-tactic for children to discourage them from misbehaving or wandering away from home. I believe A’s story demonstrates how impressionable children are in relation to folklore, as La Llorona was still having a direct effect on A’s life well after childhood. Stories also tend to be more impactful when told by family members, as there is often an underlying sense of trust between blood ties that will lend immediate credibility to a story whether it is true or not.

 “For another version, see Schlosser, S. E., and Paul G. Hoffman. 2017, Spooky Southwest: Tales of Hauntings, Strange Happenings, and Other Local Lore., Page #85