Thursday, August 20, 2009
Article by Colin Maclachlan, Professor of History
Tulane doctoral student Sarah Borealis approaches the cultural history of Mexico through the intersection of gender, art, and politics. As a part of her ongoing dissertation research, Borealis recently participated in a High Definition documentary film workshop in Oaxaca City, Mexico. Her first film is a mini-documentary about a pre-Hispanic gastronomical tradition brought to life by the Gachupin de Dios family in their family restaurant, Caldo de Piedra, near the Oaxacan pueblo of El Tule. Caldo de piedra, or “stone soup,” is a dish that represents the Chinantecan cultural tradition. The Chinantecos are one of several distinct indigenous ethnic groups living near the mouth of the Papoloapan River, in a tropical part of the state of Oaxaca. Stone soup has a gendered twist; women are not allowed to participate in the preparation of this unique and delicious dish. In the spring, the optimal time for gathering the required river stones and fresh ingredients, Chinantecan men work an entire day to produce the organic delicacy. Their labor, and the soup itself, is a collective offering of unity, respect, and honor for women, children, and older individuals as distinguished members of the community.
The piece, titled Caldo de Piedra: Sabor Chinanteco (Stone Soup: Chinantecan Flavor) was voted best film of the workshop, and received the Katherine Bliss and William French award for Gender Awareness in Mexican History. Borealis believes that the responsibilities of the historian include utilizing alternative media to increase the reach of the more traditional written historical narrative. Images, sound and testimony have the potential to help a piece of scholarship transcend barriers such as literacy, language and geography, and Borealis plans to continue using film as a way to make her work on the history of Latin America available to a broader audience.
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