The Bolivian Salteña

Bolivian Salteñas

Photo Credit: Ross Lewin

When I realized that I wanted to pursue a career in Food Studies, I started a food and travel blog that highlighted some of my most memorable exploits in the Americas. One of these particular experiences happened during my very first trip outside the United States, in the country of Bolivia, when I was 19 years old. In Bolivia, the locals eat salteñas for a morning snack — a very different breakfast to my typical eggs and pancakes — so I was delighted to come across a food stand selling these savory pastries my first morning in La Paz. I took one into my hands and, disregarding any thought of etiquette or sophistication, I munched into that salteña like I hadn’t eaten for years; hot juice running down my chin, bits of flaky crust sticking to the edges of my mouth; I didn’t care. It was one of those foods that wasn’t just delicious; it was mind-numbingly good. I quickly whipped around, turning to the man who sold me that heavenly treat. “¡Delicioso, señor!” I exclaimed, my mouth absolutely stuffed to the brim, cheeks bulging. The man, surprised, looked slowly over my messy, food-stained face and started to laugh. It was obvious I had never eaten a salteña before and he decided to help me, showing me the proper way by holding one upright, nibbling at the top corner and eating downwards without spilling a single drop of juice. After thanking him profusely, he gave me a wink and a knowing smile. “Bienvenidos a Bolivia, amiga,” he answered. That connection — a brief, fleeting moment of a local man welcoming me into his country — resonated deeply within me. It was the first time I realized that food had the power to connect people, regardless of what country they were from or which language they spoke.

That salteña was the first thing I ever ate in Bolivia, or in any country outside the U.S., for that matter. I consider the salteña, and the memory that it invokes, the beginning of a fiery passion for food, culture, and travel that has stayed with me ever since that first trip to Bolivia. I don’t know if I would be where I am today, an aspiring culinary anthropologist, had I not discovered food’s remarkable ability to bring people together, back at that food stand in La Paz years ago.

Posted by Elizabeth Unger—NYU Food Studies graduate student

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Welcome back to our students and faculty, and happy Fall to all of our followers!

We kicked off the semester by enthusiastically welcoming our newest MA students at orientation. We are excited to have such a dynamic group begin a new academic year.

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To Remember Is to Resist

rememberMy research experience in Brazil has been very interesting and unique, as Brazilian artists, art critics, and curators have opened the doors of their ateliers and houses to talk about the experience of the military regime in their country.
Many of the artists told me that the dictatorship did not influence their way of creating art. Nevertheless, the context in which they where living unavoidably influenced the content of their work.
After interviewing the sculptor Carlos Tenius, I met the painter Clara Pechansky, who told me that for her the only possible way to talk at that time was through her art.
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Translating ‘Works of Mas’ Within Trinidad and Tobago


For the past month my mission has been trying to document diverse perspectives on the development of “works of mas.” I have done everything possible such as consulting intellectual property lawyers at the Ministry of Legal Affairs, attending a Calypso/Pan concert, even intruding the spaces of various mas-camps, and having tea with one of the world’s icons, Peter Minshall.
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Researching Agrarian Reform in Cuba

Newspaper article from May 19, 1959: "Tierra para todos los cubanos!"
On May 17th, 1959, five months after the victory of the 26th of July Movement over Fulgencio Batista’s dictatorship in Cuba, an agrarian reform law was passed limiting the amount of land that each land owner was allowed to have and nationalizing large estates and companies. From the turn of the century until the implementation of the land reform, concentration of land had been high: the majority of land had been in the hands of a few wealthy Cubans and sugar producing companies from the United States. With its aims of redistributing land to Cuba’s poor campesinos and workers, the land reform was more than a central goal of the revolution. Expressed in this commonly heard phrase during the first years of the revolution, “sin reforma agraria, no hay revolución,” its success was seen as being intricately tied to the success and survival of the revolution.

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Radio Adaptations: Good Books, Bad Books

This is the follow-up to Radio Teatro del Aire, my post about my archival research of radio dramas in Mexico City.

The second part of my project in Mexico City deals with trying to find out which books regularly read in high school are the works that have a positive effect on students, inspiring them to become readers in adulthood. I also want to ask, which are the books that have the opposite effect? I have been doing interviews in person and on the Internet, and the results are pretty close.

The list of books that positively influenced people to become readers as adults:

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Radio Teatro del Aire

Hello again from Mexico City.

During the last couple of weeks I have been doing primarily two things. The first one involves going back several times to the archives of the Fonoteca Nacional in Coyoacán and listening to different kinds of radio dramas, in particular the ones based on written fiction. The Fonoteca has a massive archive, and I would need years and many extra people to listen to each one of the radio dramas they have available in order to make a proper selection. What would be a proper selection in this case? Entertaining archived radio dramas, available to take out of the Fonoteca and free to play at schools for pedagogical reasons, and radio stations, in order to get closer this appealing kind of storytelling to the Mexican population.

What I have found is that the best productions are the ones that were made in the 80s by Televisa, the main media source of the country, which happens to be a private and sometimes vilified corporation, probably the main ideological influence that Mexicans consume through popular culture—television, radio, and cinema.

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