Being SalviMex molded me into I am today. I am a Latina who was born and raised in Los Angeles. My mother is Salvadorian-American and my father is Mexican-American. My mother has always been a talented home cook; she learned many Salvadorian recipes in her motherland. When she came to Los Angeles and met my father here, she learned Mexican recipes from his family. Lucky me, there was always delicious Salvadorian and Mexican food growing up in my home.
My Mexican Roots – My Father
My father moved to Los Angeles when he was just a teenager. He came to work and save money. My father kept an open mind about the possibility of returning home, but eventually, he realized there were so many opportunities here in LA, that he stayed.
Evenetually, he helped move my Nana here, bought a home, met my mom, started a family, etc. Even though he is now a proud citizen of the United States, he carries nostalgia for his country of birth. He visits multiple times a year. When I was a child, we would take weekend road trips to his hometown, while my mom stayed behind with the siblings. (I am the only one of us who loves Mexico almost as much as my dad does and therefore I was always eager to accompany him!)
I learned a lot about balancing dual identities from my father: he was proud of his roots and proud of the opportunities that Los Angeles offered him.
My Salvadorian Roots – My Mama
My mom, on the other hand, always dreamed of coming to the US. The same way someone from the middle of the USA may long to move to The Big Apple, my mother dreamt of being an American. For her, when she came here, her goals were to make it, to be successful. Her logic was that assimilation would open more doorways for her. She proudly embraced her new Los Angeles identity.
Yet, when mama would call back home, I would see this different side come out of her. Like her guard was down. When we would visit El Salvador together as a family, it was amazing to see my mother, like a chameleon, lean into her roots, so comfortable, so happily.
As an adult, as I reflect on these memories, I now understand that her assimilation was not a rejection of her culture. It was my mom’s way of surviving and eventually thriving in the United States. What better way to honor yourself than to thrive? To me, my mom is one of the most successful Latinas I know. I’m so proud of her for that. From my mother, I learned many things: I learned how to be strategic to get what I want. I learned how to cook. I learned about entrepreneurship first hand from her. Finally, I learned that things are sometimes not as simple as they seem, and that these complexities can make us into who we are.
My Salvadorian Roots – My Husband
It was through my relationship with my Salvadorian-American husband that I became more in touch with my Salvi roots. I joke that my husband is my mom’s favorite because he is Salvi like her. They have a special bond that way. She gets to lean into her Salvadorian identity more often and more comfortably. It’s been really nice to see this come out over the years.
My SalviMex Roots Affect Who I am Today
Being SalviMex molded me in my formative years, and this unique identity still affects me in the best ways as an adult. For instance, when I met my husband, there was of course some initial flirting as we got to know each other. Eventually, the subject of our cultural backgrounds came up. I asked him where he was from. He told me he was born in El Salvador, came to the US as a toddler, and became a citizen right before graduating from USC. All I heard was El Salvador and my eyes lit up. Any shyness (I call it shyness; he calls it standoffishness) I felt around him instantly vanished: “What?! You’re Salvadorian?! Me too! Well, half.” It was a turning point in our courtship.
My husband is my partner and best friend. We have conversations about many things. One recurring topic is identity. What does it mean to be Latinx in the United States? What does it mean to be a Latina entrepreneur? A Latino professional? One thing we often discuss is what it means to be Mexican-American and Salvadorian-American in the United States. This is a conversation that, like many others, is a constant dialogue in our household.
Do Salvadorians and Mexicans Have Beef?
My husband says he was relieved when he found out that I was half and half. He confessed to me later in our relationship that he was excited that I was half Mexican because he loves Mexican food (the way to his heart was through his stomach). He was also relieved that I was half Salvadorian because that means we would get along.
I recall when he was trying to establish with me that he was cool with Mexicans. He’d tell me that almost all his Salvadorian-American cousins married Mexican-Americans. He also shared with me that his best friend is SalviMex too. I understood his intentions and thought they were sweet. His intentions were to show me that he has no beef with Mexicans.
Let’s be honest: it’s hard to talk about a SalviMex identity without talking about the beef some Mexicans and Salvadorians sometimes have with each other. Having roots in both cultures, I’ve heard it all— from both sides. The most frequent comment is: “How did your parents make it work? Since Salvis and Mexicans don’t like each other.” (For the record, my parents are happily married lol.)
Salvadorian and Mexican Unity
I don’t really like to give power to this beef and prefer to focus on the positive. To me, it’s important to establish unity in our cultures. There’s a lot of Mexicans and Salvadorians in Los Angeles. We are more similar than different. We can celebrate our differences and bond over our similarities. As allies, we can accomplish so much.
It has been my personal experience that these identities added to the beauty that is the complexity of Los Angeles.
Anytime I meet someone of Mexican descent, it’s so nice to have something in common! Our follow up question is usually- what part of Mexico is your family from?!
Anytime I meet someone of Salvadorian descent, the excitement is almost always instant: “oh what?! You’re Salvi too?? No way!” Then all the Salvi slang we know comes out and we bond over that.
This identity also carries over anytime I meet anyone who has Central American roots: “You’re Central American too?! How cool!!” Being SalviMex has helped me to be in touch with my Latinidad in a way that is so special to me. I wouldn’t change it for the world.
A Tribute to my SalviMex Identity
This is why Herencia Cookbook is so much more than a cookbook. It is a tribute to my Salvadorian, Mexican, Latina and Los Angeles identities; to my heritage. It is a celebration of amazing cultures through food. It is an homage to the women who taught me to cook. It is my way of honoring la raza. Being Salvi Mex in Los Angeles has brought me so much joy. This book is a small token of affection to my SalviMex identity. I invite you to join me on a journey of exploration of identity through food in Herencia Cookbook. I hope these recipes and stories bring you as much joy as they have brought to me and my loved ones.
Herencia Cookbook is currently available for sale on Amazon.