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LA Exhibit Sharing Wisdom Of Mexican Abuelas Will Expand To More Cities

A little girl in a white sweater hugs a woman in a bright pink and black shirt, with her photo (among other photos) on a wall in the background.
Merced Sanchez, right, hugs her granddaughter Samaidi, 10, who lives with her.
(Leslie Berestein Rojas
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An exhibit in downtown Los Angeles that spotlights the food of local Mexican, Mexican American and Indigenous grandmothers has been given a grant to expand its reach.

Abuelita’s Kitchen: Mexican Food Stories” opened at LA Plaza Cocina, the newest addition to LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes, in May of this year. Soon, thanks to funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities, its co-creators will begin filming the stories of grandmothers in El Paso, Tucson, San Antonio and other cities.

“We're excited to be able to represent so many different cultures in different settings,” said Sarah Portnoy, a professor of Latin American and Iberian Cultures at USC Dornsife who created the exhibit. “It'll be interesting to look at what these Mexican and Mexican American food cultures are like.”

The original exhibit at LA Plaza Cocina features ten L.A.-based Mexican and Mexican American grandmothers whose stories and wisdom are shared through photographs, a documentary, audio stories, kitchen artifacts and more.

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Showcasing how women have passed down traditions, recipes and stories from generation to generation through their domestic labor, the work also demonstrates the critical role of food in defining a culture and place.

“These women's food stories tell about so much more than just the dish they prepared for us that day,” said Portnoy. “We end up talking about migration, being undocumented, being separated from family, domestic abuse comes into play — many other themes.”

Abuelita’s Kitchen: Mexican Food Stories” will remain on display at LA Plaza Cocina until Sept. 4.

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