Food of Indigenous Texas Peoples Who Became Today’s Mexican American Community.


March 28 we served a 10-course Chef’s Texas Mexican dinner at the Aurora Picture Show. Family and friends came in from San Antonio and two chef amigos, fellow CIA alumni, flew in to help staff the kitchen.   Being the first art exhibit ever to connect Mexican American identity with food and film, it was an amazing evening of culture and amistad.

This is a link to an album, a picture set of the evening.

“Yo Trabajo La Tierra” – “I Work The Land” A video meditation by Adán Medrano, 13 minutes

I expect one can look at this art event from the perspective of relational aesthetic theory if there still is one, or from strictly film or culinary art criticism perspectives.  The evening was a performance of community, the experience of the aesthetic functions that are shared by food and film:  visual stimulation, juxtaposition of elements, manipulation of pacing over time.  But after all is said and done, we have eaten together the food we learned to cook from our Texas indigenous ancestors and we have seen projections of ourselves.  Below is an explanation of Texas Mexican food and the films that were be screened.


Texas Mexican Cuisine

(From the book, Truly Texas Mexican: A Native Culinary Heritage In Recipes,  Adán M. Medrano, Texas Tech University Press)

Texas Mexican cuisine is deeply rooted in the indigenous cultures of what are now US central and south Texas and northeastern Mexico.  The history of the cultures of this region begins in 900 AD, the period when anthropologists can identify distinct native communities and cultures.  Historians assert that over the next 3 centuries (between 900 and 1200 AD) the cultures and identities of nearly all the Texas Native American communities were clearly formed.

Map of 1824 Texas Mexico. The triangle is the region of
Texas Mexican Cuisine.

This region was the state of “Coahuila y Texas” and actually part of the Mexican Republic which claimed Texas from 1821 to 1848.  It is therefore understandable that the indigenous Texas natives, along with their food, came to be known as “Mexican.” But it is erroneous to locate this food history as “south of the border,” for it existed also north of the Rio Grande River long before it was a border.

Between 1492 and 1900, 90% of the native peoples of Texas died.  European diseases such as cholera, smallpox, measles and influenza killed massive populations within weeks and even days.  Adding to this, Texan wars against native peoples and policies of ethnic cleansing would lead to massive deaths.

The indigenous peoples who remained in Texas married with other tribes, with European settlers and with Mexicans coming up from Southern Mexico. They sometimes lived in Catholic Church missions and eventually came to be known as the Mexican American people of Texas.

We are about community and a celebratory, nourishing table. We are the Mexican-American, Texas Indian, Texas Native American, Chicano chefs and cooks who choose to live on this our ancestral land and make a serious, delicious contribution to the culinary work of our ancestors.  Our cooking gets its character from the terroir, the special geography, geology and climate of the land; from the combination of ingredients which over time have proven to be fitting; and from the cooking techniques that efficiently impart the flavor characteristic of our history.

Chicano Films

Chicano is the name that is selected by Mexican Americans as a statement of self-identity.  Among its many connotations is one that affirms being culturally distinct while at the same time being at home in this land. It was used during the Chicano movement of the 1960′s and 1970′s and is associated with political action that improves the economic, social, educational and cultural lives of the Mexican American community and wider humane community.  The San Antonio CineFestival, founded by Medrano in 1976, was the first and now longest-running showcase of Chicano filmmaking.


Yo Trabajo La Tierra/I Work The Land (1990), 13 minutes, by Adán Medrano is a meditation on the religious and political dimensions of people who do farm work.  The no-dialog video is based on dreams and memories of the filmmaker, whose style is characterized by traditional, formal editing.  Raw natural sounds underscore daily routine, ending with a “corrido” about the farmworker God.

Willie Varela, Filmmaker
Willie Varela, Filmmaker

Detritus, The Remix (1989/2002), 12 minutes, by Willie Varela forces viewers to reckon with their intimate relationship to television. Using TV footage and his own images, Varela implicates both the consumer and the media industry in perpetuating a system of empty promises.  Texture, pacing, claustrophobia, Catholicism are foregrounded. A pioneer in the US avant-garde film movement, Varela defines the role of Chicano filmmaking in the development of US cinema.

Enlight-Tents (2010) by Laura Varela and Vaago Weiland, 4 minutes, transforms into a video format a live installation that used The Alamo as a giant screen.  EnlightTentsTexas “Indians” are layered over the stone texture of the old mission walls and juxtaposed with illuminated Mexican American faces looking into the beyond as though there were no time.


Have You Seen Marie? (2012) by Ray Santisteban, 7 minutes, transforms a book by renowned Chicana author,

“Have You Seen Marie” video by Ray Santisteban, 7 minutes,
Winner, 2013 San Antonio CineFestival “Best Short Film”

Sandra Cisneros, into a personal video statement by pasting print and moving images inside the same frame.  The work merges documentary style camera work with digital image manipulation to retell the story of a lost cat – and who we really are.

The Chef’s Tasting Menu

La Bienvenida:

Trucha Ahumada Con Mayonesa de Chipotle-Yerbaníz
(Smoked Trout with Chipotle-Yerbaníz Mayonnaise)

Scene 1:

Gorditas de  Camarón y Nopalitos
(Texas Cactus and Gulf Coast Shrimp Canapé)

Gorditas de Frijoles Refritos y Queso
(Well-Fried Pinto Beans and Cheese Canapé)

FILM: “Yo Trabajo La Tierra” Adán Medrano 13 minutes

Scene 2:

Texas Mexican Crab Cocktail
Pecan-smoked Pork Loin with Chile Ancho Adobo

Albóndigas de Chile Chipotle
(Pickled Chile Chipotle Meatballs)

FILM: “Detritus” Willie Varela 12 minutes

 Scene 3:

Carne Guisada con Papas
(Green Chile  Beef with Potatoes)

Puerco en Chile Rojo
(Pork in Dried Red Chiles)

Puerco En Chile Rojo

FILMS: “Enlight Tents” Laura Varela & Vaago Weiland 7 minutes
Have You Seen Marié?” Ray Santisteban 6 minutes

 La Despedida:

(Aromatic Pork Empanadas)

(Cinnamon Rounds)


Hasta luego!



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