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Home | Tag Archives: El Paso Museums and Cultural Affairs Department

Tag Archives: El Paso Museums and Cultural Affairs Department

Gallery+Story: New Poetry Book Explores Ancient Culinary Tradition

For most people, tortillas de maiz are vehicles for savory guisados, melted cheese or meats. But for health educator and poet Rubi Orozco Santos, they’re a gateway to her pre-Columbian ancestry and rediscovering an ancient technique called nixtamalization.

The tradition and those who still practice it are the inspiration behind her debut book, “Inventos Míos.” Santos will give a reading from the bilingual collection of poetry and prose this Wednesday, August 15 at the UTEP Centennial Museum.

Culinary adventurers can also learn more about nixtamalization through La Mujer Obrera’s class on the technique Thursday, August 16 at Café Mayapan.

A practice dating back to the Olmecs, nixtamalization involves boiling and steeping corn in an alkaline solution – such as water mixed with limestone or the Mexican mineral salt tequesquite – so that the grain can be used to make food like tortillas, tamales or gorditas. Nixtamalizing corn reduces its toxins and makes it more nutritious.

But beyond its benefits, the practice is an important glimpse into the past.

“The whole history of corn mirrors migration of people,” Santos said. “This process of nixtamalization is something that traveled through indigenous landscapes for centuries.”

Revisiting the not-so-far-back past, the prose “El Primer Recuerdo: Tlaltizapán, Morelos, 1985” recalls Santos’ aunts working with nixtamal at her family’s tortilleria in her father’s Mexican hometown.

“We used to go to the village during the summers and stayed at the house next to the tortilleria,” Santos said. “At 4 a.m., we could hear the machines and line of people talking. And then my grandma on my mom’s side used to make nixtamal for the family in small batches.”

“Inventos Míos” was made possible through a grant Santos received from the El Paso Museums and Cultural Affairs Department’s artist incubator program. Aside from memories of her upbringing, she used in-person interviews with locals who nixtamalize, polls and research to inspire her poetry.

Going beyond tradition, Santos’ book touches personal struggles, colonization and the oppression and survival of Mesoamericans.

“Nixtamalization is one of the things that the Spanish didn’t value,” Santos said. “They didn’t bother to ask about how indigenous people cooked corn. And so what happens when you don’t nixtamalize corn is that you create a niacin (vitamin B3) deficiency.

“If people are going to eat a lot of corn and that’s their main grain and they don’t nixtamalize it, there’s a wasting disease called pellagra that affects the skin that leaves lesions, and you could eventually die.

“There was 200 years of this illness in places like Europe and North Africa before medical researches started to wonder, “How come the Mexicans and the indigenous people in Guatemala don’t get this sickness?”

With a health science bachelor’s from UTEP and a public health master’s from the University of California at Berkeley, Santos is a passionate advocate for food security and nutrition for underserved communities.

“I started with a focus on hunger in immigrant communities,” Santos said. “Why are farm workers lacking food when they’re the ones harvesting food?”

Growing up eating nutritious ingredients like verdolaga, a local plant many disregard as a weed to get rid of, Santos is equally passionate about food her ancestors ate and plant-based eating in general. Her most impactful teacher was her grandmother.

“She taught me how to look at a tomato and notice its color, how firm it is and the shape of it,” Santos said. “She used to even kiss them. She’d be like, ‘Look at the beautiful things nature makes!’”

The resounding message throughout Santos’ book is that keeping ancestral traditions alive is essential for survival. One clear example is in the poem, “Movement at the Mill”:

“Right relationship of observing to practicing
“ensures skill set
“protects lineage
“from Dark Age ahead.”

MORE INFO: 

Inventos Míos Book Release

5:30-7 Wednesday, August 15
Centennial Museum and Chihuahuan Desert Gardens
University Avenue & Wiggins Rd
More info: 915-747-5565 or via Facebook

Fronteriza Food Cooking Classes – 6 p.m. every Thursday from Aug. 16-Sept. 13

Aug. 16: Nixtamal
Aug. 23:Mole
Aug. 30: Tamal de Cazuela Veracruzana
Sept. 6: Salsas
Sept. 13: Chiles en Nogada

Hosted by La Mujer Obrera
Café Mayapan, 2000 Texas Avenue
$35 per class
Tickets at eventbrite.com
More info: 915-217-1126

Author: Victoria Guadalupe Molinar – Special to the El Paso Herald-Post | Photos courtesy of Victoria Quevedo

National Study: City’s Nonprofit Arts, Culture Industry Generates $103M Impact

The City of El Paso Museums and Cultural Affairs Department (MCAD) recently participated in Arts & Economic Prosperity 5, a national study measuring the economic impact of nonprofit arts and culture organizations and their audiences, which demonstrated that the nonprofit arts and culture industry generates more than $103 million in annual economic activity in El Paso.

“When businesses look at El Paso, they consider what type of quality of life their employees will have in our community. By investing in arts and culture, El Paso is demonstrating how this sector of our economy completes the big picture of what we have to offer,” said Deputy City Manager for Economic Development and Tourism Cary Westin.

The industry also supports 4,193 full-time jobs and generates $5.9 million in local and state government revenues, an increase of more than 13 percent from the original study in 2007.

This includes $24 million in economic impact to local bars and restaurants and $1.8 million in economic impact to hotels.

“The arts are engrained in the culture of El Paso, and it is big part of who we are as a community,” said Director of MCAD Tracey Jerome. “This study demonstrates how supporting the arts has a direct correlation with the economic development and growth in our community.”

In order to create a complete picture of how arts and culture activities affects the local economy, the MCAD collected detailed financial data about local nonprofit arts and culture organizations such as theater and dance companies, museums, festivals, and arts education organizations.

The department also collected surveys from attendees at arts events using a short, anonymous questionnaire that asks how much money they spent on items such as meals, parking and transportation, and retail shopping specifically as a result of attending the event.

The most comprehensive economic impact study of the nonprofit arts and culture industry ever conducted in the United States, Arts & Economic Prosperity V was conducted by Americans for the Arts, the nation’s leading nonprofit organization for advancing the arts and arts education.

‘The Cloud’ Honored as One of the Outstanding Public Arts Projects in the Nation

The El Paso Museums and Cultural Affairs Department (MCAD) is proud to announce that The Cloud  art sculpture has been recognized as one of the nation’s Outstanding Public Arts Projects for 2016 by the Americans for the Arts.

The interactive sculpture, created by Donald Lipski, is one of 49 outstanding public art projects recognized through the Public Art Network’s Year in Review program.

The artwork for the Spur 1966 roundabout speaks to both motorists and pedestrians moving through the road and sidewalk that comprise the installation site. Inspiration for The Cloud was drawn from the iconic Bhutanese architecture used prominently throughout the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) campus. The artwork pays reverence to both the country of Bhutan, also known as the “Kingdom in the Clouds,” and to the City of El Paso’s open skies, which feature equally impressive cloud formations.

“In the past 10 years, El Paso’s public art program has installed iconic art pieces throughout the city. The goal of our program, and public art, is to reach everybody and bring art into public spaces. The Cloud floating over the UTEP campus has become a landmark for students as they walk through campus, as well as for citizens and visitors as they drive by I-10,” said Public Art Program Supervisor Aidee Cosme.

The artist spent months searching for a picture of the perfect cloud that was then rendered into individual, kinetic panels. Thousands of hinged, stainless steel flaps make up The Cloud. When wind fills the atmosphere, the flaps participate in a kinetic illusion mimicking the movement of actual clouds.

Americans for the Arts, the nation’s leading nonprofit organization for advancing the arts and arts education, honors 49 outstanding public arts projects created in 2016 through the Public Art Network (PAN) Year in Review program, the only national program that specifically recognizes the most compelling public art. The works were chosen from entries from across the country and were recently recognized at Americans for the Arts’ 2017 Annual Convention in San Francisco.

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