National Hispanic Heritage Month: Celebrating Our Cultures through Food, Here at MCN, and Among the Migrants & Farmworkers We Serve
During the last 30 days, the national spotlight has been on celebrating the culture and contributions of Latine communities through National Hispanic Heritage Month. The media has been filled with the stories of contributions made by famous folks, like the first Latina woman to travel to space, Ellen Ochoa, or the first Latina to serve on the Supreme Court, Justice Sonia Sotomayor. These contributions are noteworthy and impressive. Here at Migrant Clinicians Network, we also believe that ordinary people make important contributions and deserve recognition and acknowledgment too. We practice that.
Recently, MCN staff gathered in community to have a conversation about our cultures of origin. We shared and celebrated our different heritages and the journeys that some of us took to get to the United States. We learned once again what it means to work in a non-majority-white organization. MCN is an organization that values diversity and honors each of their employees’ unique lived experience. Our conversation made clear that despite media presentations of Hispanics/Latinos as a monolithic community, we are not . Each country has its unique heritage and culture.
One aspect did stand out. We learned that one theme connects us, regardless of our origin stories: the centrality of food that represents our cultures to us! Delighting in food is a universal experience; food is not just fuel for our bodies. It is a symbol of our identities and a connection to our countries of origin.
Migration, whether forced or chosen, represents a journey of hope and resilience. People leave their countries of origin, sometimes in search of safety due to conflict, economic hardship, or seeking asylum from persecution. Others migrate in search of a better life and educational opportunities for their children. At MCN, nearly half of our staff are immigrants themselves or children of immigrant parents and many had something to say about their native cuisine. While talking about arepas pepiada, mofongo, tamales, and chifa, the chat bar of our virtual meeting was filled with hearts and likes.
At MCN, when we pay attention to food, we can likewise pay attention to the agricultural workers who toil under the sun in fields, farms, and orchards to grow and harvest our food. We can feel gratitude to their labor. Our appreciation of our cultures’ foods immediately makes the bridge to gratitude for those who, despite the systemic challenges they face and the poor working conditions under which they labor, nonetheless take pride in who they are and their role in feeding the world. As Hispanic Heritage Month wraps up, here at MCN we have had even more vivid understanding of the rich traditions, cultures, and histories that make up the contributions of the Latine community. Let us honor and appreciate the role of agricultural workers who, through their tireless efforts, help our communities remember where we come from. By cherishing our heritage through food, we honor the journey of our ancestors. Food is more than just sustenance—it's a bridge that connects us to our cultural roots and to each other.