Homemade – by Women

Besides the many parties, another common commentary by return migrants on what they enjoy in Mexico is the food. They cherish the freshness of the ingredients and the fact that most everything is homemade – coming from their fields or their backyard.

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Roasting cacao beans to make chocolate

I certainly agree with them on that point. As I wrap up my time here in rural Puebla, I am taking advantage of every opportunity to learn how to make the many delicacies that I have enjoyed in the region. Whether it is homemade tortillas or mole or tamales or disks to make Mexican hot chocolate I find the process of creation fascinating and the women in the community are more than willing to teach me.

Yet as I learn I realize there are deeper implications and consequences of the long creative process that each meal requires. Simply put, lengthy food preparation and women employment seem to be mutually exclusive. A working woman cannot spend hours making tortillas or mole or tamales. And only once in my two months here have I seen a man help with any part of food preparation. Even men who worked as chefs in the US don’t set foot in the kitchen here.

 “The women are lazy in the US” said one woman who has never migrated. She made the comment on the basis of the fact that women in the US just go to the store to buy everything and don’t grind corn to make tortillas or kill chickens for lunch. The two women that I interviewed who were housewives for the duration of their time in the US agreed with that assessment as they mentioned that life was much easier for them there – almost boring – because of the fewer chores.

Yet all of the women who I have interviewed who worked in the US have a radically different vision from the status quo of the towns. “What is missing in Mexico is that the women work” told one of them. Many women shared how empowered they felt working in the US and how they would like to do the same in rural Mexico. Few of the women were currently working because now their husbands think they should stay home and tend to chores.

Being here has ironically made me appreciate the industrialization and convenience of the US. Of course, food quality suffers for it and I am not looking forward to going back to eating packaged tortillas once I leave here. But I also think it is a small price to pay because it is one of many factors that allows me flexibility to have my own career and work outside of the home.

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2 Responses to Homemade – by Women

  1. jdenari says:

    Joanna,

    I feel like my experiences here (in terms of the food) are a bit similar. Sabra brand hummus in the States is nothing like it is here. I actually avoid hummus in the States because of how disappointing it is. I much prefer local fruit to U.S. imported varieties and will miss the pomelos and pomegranates and fresh figs that I can get at the local vegetable stand. I’m trying to learn how to make the traditional big Jordanian dishes from my friends so I can share them with friends at home.

    I also really do appreciate the sentiment of the women who find the prospect of less chores “more boring.” Sometimes, when I spend so much time in front of a computer or a TV screen, I wonder how much MORE (not less) there was to do before these machines. Peeling a pomelo, wrapping grape leaves, sweeping the floor. These are meaningful, dignified ways to spend time, and often we in the developed world (including myself) often dread these tasks, when really they keep us mindful, patient and able to find joy in the simple things.

    • I look forward to swapping home-cooked recipies when we get back from our respective journeys! And though I certainly do value the dignity of work at home, I also appreciate the self-esteem and value that comes from women being paid for their work, which often means not being able to do as many tasks at home. It is a sad trade-off but I think an important one for a concept of equality to exist in the towns where I was living, which is unfortunately not the case at the moment.

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