2014 Hispanic Heritage Celebration EDIBLE HISTORY: How Latin American Food Evolved and Transformed the World

On view September 18 – December 31, 2014
Main Library, 2nd Floor Gallery
Curated by Ingrid Betancourt

The potato is indigenous to the Andes. The International Potato Center in Peru has preserved almost 5,000 varieties.

Food and cooking are at the heart of every culture. Latin American foodways incorporate indigenous, European, African and Asian influences. Edible History looks at the history and cultures of Latin America through the lens of food. It explores the origins of its cuisines; examines the economic, cultural and political impact that major Latin American foodstuffs – cacao, potatoes, peanuts, corn, etc. – have had worldwide; and looks at the ways in which Latin American food has influenced cuisine in the United States.

“The history of gastronomy is the history of the World.”
– Carme Ruscalleda, Catalan Chef

The three–month exhibit also showcases original works by painter Fernando Mariscal; award–winning photographer and reporter Gery Vereau’s photographic essay celebrating Latino foodways in New Jersey; prints from the Library’s Special Collections; and other artifacts that illustrate the diversity of local Latino food culture. The exhibit was curated by Ingrid Betancourt, Project Director, New Jersey Hispanic Research and Information Center at The Newark Public Library.

Juane de gallina – a traditional dish
from the Peruvian jungle –
served at La Cocona Restaurant in Passaic.
Juane de gallina
Semita botana is a popular snack in the Mexican state of Puebla, and a specialty of the house at La Fortaleza Restaurant in northern New Jersey.
Semita botana

For additional information or to schedule guided tours of Edible History: How Latin American Food Evolved and Transformed the World in English or Spanish, please call the Sala Hispanoamericana at 973–733–7772, or email ibetancourt@npl.org.

The Newark Public Library is located at 5 Washington Street in downtown Newark’s growing cultural complex. The exhibition is open during regular Library hours, Monday through Saturday, with free admission.


September 18 • Thursday, 6 pm • Centennial Hall

Chef Maricel Presilla
Marisel Presilla
Gran Cocina Latina

Culinary historian, chef and author, Maricel Presilla will present the keynote address at the opening of the 2014 Hispanic Heritage Celebration. Dr. Presilla is the chef and co-owner of Cucharamama and Zafra, two pan–Latin restaurants in Hoboken, New Jersey. She is also the president of Gran Cacao Company, a Latin American food research and marketing company. Her books, The New Taste of Chocolate: A Cultural and Natural History of Cacao and Gran Cocina Latina: The Food of Latin America, narrate the cultural history of chocolate and explore the vast culinary landscape of the Latin world. Dr. Presilla’s talk will be followed by a musical performance and previews of upcoming programs.


September 27 • Saturday, 2 pm • Centennial Hall
Tasting Peru: Pre–Columbian to Novo–Andean Cuisine

Juan Andrés Placencia
Juan Andrés Placencia
14,000 años de alimentación en el Perú

Peru’s cuisine is considered – along with Machu Pichu and the Amazonian Region – as one of the nation’s great treasures. Professor Lorenzo Cruz offers a short presentation on the 14,000 year history of Peruvian food, and Juan Andrés Placencia, Executive Chef of Costanera – Cocina Peruana in New Jersey, talks about the growing Novo–Andean cuisine movement and demonstrates his cooking skills.


October 18 • Saturday, 2 pm • Centennial Hall
Savoring the Rhythms: Food and Music in Latin America

José Obando
Jose Obando

José Obando, Director of the Musical Instrument Archive at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, discusses the blending of European, African and indigenous food cultures in Latin America and the connection between food and native musical instruments. The program features live music, a demonstration of instruments from different parts of Latin America, and a Dominican merengue dance lesson.


October 25 • Saturday, 2 pm • Auditorium
Tortilla Soup

Tortilla Soup

A Mexican–American master chef has lost his senses of taste and smell since his wife died, and his three feisty adult daughters still living at home are driving him crazy – and he, them. This tasty and nourishing comedy offers an affectionate look at family life with all its foibles and difficulties. There are tensions between the home and the outside world, and conflicts between honoring cultural integrity/culinary tradition and embracing the new fusion movement. (102 mins, in English)
Film commentary will be provided by filmmaker, educator and media advocate, Beni Matías, a founding member of the National Association of Latino Independent Producers.


November 15 • Saturday, 2 pm • Auditorium
Cooking Up Dreams (De Ollas y Sueños)

Cooking Up Dreams
Cooking Up Dreams

Renowned Peruvian director Ernesto Cabellos, presents his country’s spectacular cuisine and asks himself: Can an entire nation be represented by its cuisine? This documentary journeys to the kitchens of Peru’s coast, highlands and jungle, as well as Peruvian expat communities in Paris, London, Amsterdam and New York for answers. From the most humble family kitchens to the most exclusive restaurants, from stories of pioneering Peruvian chefs abroad to those who preserve ancient recipes at home, we find that Peru’s cuisine is deliciously integrating for its people, who have historically been divided by ethnic and economic differences. View trailer. Film commentary will be provided by filmmaker, educator and media advocate, Beni Matías, a founding member of the National Association of Latino Independent Producers.

December 6 • Saturday, 2 pm • Centennial Hall
The Coquito Workshop


Coquito—the Puerto Rican traditional Christmas drink, is a metaphor for a cultural longing that many Puerto Ricans in the diaspora feel for the island they left behind—when slowly sipped it opens the floodgate of memory. The program includes a talk on the coquito phenomenon; clips of the documentary film ¡COQUITO! – a work in progress that features the Coquito Master contest, created by Debbie Quiñones in El Barrio, NY; a coquito–making demonstration and tasting. Presenter Beni Matías is producer/director of ¡Coquito! with partners Tami Gold and Sonia González–Martínez.

October – November • Sala Hispanoamericana
Gente y Cuentos: Food for the Literary Soul

Gente y Cuentos

Weekly short story reading & discussion programs focusing on food–themed stories in Spanish by well–known Latin American writers. Each short story will be read aloud and participants will have the opportunity to participate in a lively discussion led by People & Stories facilitator, Alma Concepción. Call the Sala Hispanoamericana – 973-733-7772 – for dates and times.




Photo courtesy of The Star-Ledger

Newark ’74: Remembering the Puerto Rican Riots
On view October 1 – December 31, 2014
Fourth Floor Gallery

Wednesday, October 1 • 5:30 pm • Auditorium

On the 40th anniversary of the Puerto Rican riots in Newark, a traveling exhibit curated by Bloomfield College students in collaboration with the Puerto Rican Community Archive at the Newark Library revisits a forgotten chapter of the City’s rich history. This program is cosponsored by the Friends of the HRIC.

October 11 • Saturday, 2 pm • Centennial Hall
A Day in the Life of La Gatita de Oro in Apt. 6–J: Salsa Dancing

Ivette Méndez
Ivette Méndez

As she leaves for work one morning, a health–conscious Latina advises her beloved Gatita de Oro to exercise instead of sleeping and eating treats all day. What’s a cat living in an apartment to do? The launch of this delightful children’s book will feature a reading and signing with the author, Ivette Méndez, and illustrator, Carlos Luis Méndez. Yes, there will be Salsa music (dancing is encouraged). There will be a children’s arts and crafts activity and refreshments will be provided.



This year’s programs and exhibits were made possible in part by funds from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts and administered by the Essex County Division of Cultural and Historic Affairs and by a grant from the New Jersey Council for the Humanities, a state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations in these programs and exhibits do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities or the New Jersey Council for the Humanities.