Monday Morning Monstrosity: Special #Papusa Edition
For those who are new to this platform, Monday Morning Monstrosity began back in August 2016 as a way to bring attention to, cry, groan, ridicule, and hopefully, shame the culinary atrocities committed against pupusas by, white-owned restaurants, white people cooking at home, and even some Latinxs who really should know better.
For almost a year, this platform has featured some monstrosities that surely must have spawned from the lowest and most base recesses of the white imaginary: pupusa burgers, pupusa/taco hybrids, friend egg on pupusas–because for some reason, white people like fried eggs on everything.
All throughout this journey, it has been wonderful to see the Salvadoran and Central American community on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter take action into their own hands and defend their culinary heritage. I would like to take this opportunity to give a shout-out and recognize the efforts of one person in particular, Wendy Rodríguez (@wendy.718), who started out as a follower to Dichos de un bicho and then launched her own crusade to call out pupusa abusers on Instagram. Every Sunday she takes time do her own research, denounce white people in comments, and send me the worst of the worst that she happens to find. And so, for all her efforts, all of us at Dichos de un bicho, Angie, Púchica Puchín, and myself wish to recognize Wendy’s labor and celebrate the awesome cachimbona that she is!
The Hall of Monstrositities
Unlike other weeks where Wendy sends me one or two examples, with week she found a host of awful pupusa monstrosities, which warranted putting them in listicle form. And yes, all of these can be found by performing an Instagram search for #papusas. So without further ado, let’s begin!
Most times, it’s white people pulling some Mexican/Salvadoran/Latin hybridization that would bring any Salvadoran pupusera nightmares. But it especially hurts when it’s done by another Latinx. In this particular case, a Mexican family decided to put crema, cotija cheese and pico de gallo on pupusas. This example isn’t as outrageous or aberrant as others I’ve seen, but what I do find interesting is the the poster realizes that doing this is contrary to how pupusas are normally served, yet feels zero remorse for it.
As if through some sort of quantum synergy, white people have come up with something similar to the first entry on this list. Look, I understand that in our carb saturated diets, we really need to be mindful of what we eat, particularly because of heart disease and diabetes. But pupusas are not really meant to be made healthier–they are what they are. Although, an argument can be made for ayote or other plant-based fillings being used instead. That being said, I don’t have an objection to Salvadoran themselves trying to create healthy alternative to our dishes. Salvis like SalviSoul creator/author, Karla Vásquez, have been experimenting creating new and exciting variations on traditional dishes. Also, be sure to check out her wonderful website!
When I was a kid and would visit El Salvador, I loved going to Apopa where my brother lived. On one of the street corners, a señora had her stand where she would set up a large comal with burning wood underneath. She would make hundreds of small pupusas no bigger than 4.5 inches in diameter. I could eat 12 of those! The only place here on Los Angeles that makes them that style is Pupusería El Pueblo on 6th Street near Lafaytte Park. Anyway, the above pictured fried masa discs are not it. What is shown above is hostia for an unholy mass to venerate the white devil who decided to put pineapple sauce on them.
Pinto bean and kale papusa? Why, that could only be something churned out by our friends at Tres Latin Foods, makers of the infamous Whole Foods frozen pupusas. Look white vegans, just eat the veggies and throw away those processed masa discs. Just like the tofurkey, fakon, and that vegan cheese that never melts, the real thing was just not meant for you, and that’s okay.
In like direct opposition to the previous entry, this vegan individual somehow figured out how to make the carby masa discs even more carby. And hey, speak of the devil, i.e. cheese that never melts…
Yeah no, homie. I don’t what you were trying to do here, but in this universe, the ingredients go inside the pupusa. All of a sudden, I am reminded of the end of David Cronenberg’s The Fly.
Let’s get one thing very straight here: ceviche and tostadas are a sacrosanct coupling. Tostadas by themselves are brittle frisbees that are largely unspectacular. But put beans, any diced meat, and some lettuce, tomato, and salsa, and we’re in business. Now, because a tostada is hard, it will only partially absorb the moisture from whatever you put on it. So in the case of ceviche, you have sufficient time to enjoy the seafood delight without worrying that the Under the Sea spectacular will fall apart before reaching your mouth. Now, think about what happens when you leave curtido and salsa de tomate on a pupusa for too long. That’s right, you get a mess.
Cinnamon is for breakfast. Hand made tortillas are most definitely for breakfast. But cinnamon-laced masa discs passing themselves off as pupusas for breakfast?
This… this is an act of hate. The pupusa has a beautiful design that has been perfected over generations by wise Salvadoran pupuseras. These renowned culinary masters know very well that the pupusa is designed for all the ingredients contained within to melt into each other, creating that almost transcendental taste that we all know and love. It is perfection as it is. This thing pictured above is like a culinary metaphor for the #MexicanHegemony. Salvadoran uniqueness drowned in Mexicanization.
No joke, this makes my skin crawl. On a symbolic level, it represents one of the most abominable trends in food production that could only have arise from failed and bankrupt imaginary of white Americana: deep frying every goddamned thing that is half-way edible. On a personal level, having just spent the last month recuperating from a yuca frying accident that left my leg with second and third degree burns, get this picture is making my newly grown flesh hurt.
So a Little Bit of Analysis
Back in March of 2016, I wrote:
“While some people may not see [bastardizing pupusas] as such a big deal, as a Salvadoran, I find it personally abhorrent to see a staple of my own culture to be appropriated, bastardized, homogenized, and commercialized for the profit of white people. It triggers memories of how much of our history as Central Americans has been mediated by the expropriation of our resources and culture by white capitalists seeking to make an easy buck. But also from an analytical perspective, it also denotes that the Salvadoran community has reached a point of cultural hypervisibility in the United States, leaving us open to the predation of the racist white imaginary, which operates on the exotification and fetishization of the ‘other.’ “
One would think that Latinx-based social media platforms would take the opportunity to criticize white people appropriating our culinary traditions and histories and treat them like science fair experiments. However, last year, so-called Latinx media websites such as Flama and We are mitú increased production of content centering around Central American cuisine and culture. And unfortunately, much of this content was rather poorly researched. Rather than create media content that respects, honors, and accurately reflects our communities, we are instead treated to media that either collapses Mexican and Central American culture together, or celebrates the diverse ways white people have bastardized our cultural culinary staples. In the end, it is media that is inherently intended for a white audience.
The two videos posted above are prominent examples of the almost fetishistic representation that both Flama and We are mitú cultivated around pupusas, despite both platform having ample resources to feature local pupuserías in metropolitan areas and interviewing the womxn who spend their lives creating these dishes. While I have little hope that Latinx platforms will make a greater effort to represent Central Americans with greater complexity and nuance, I am heartened to find alternative platforms like The Racist Sandwich, a podcast that for over a year has been interviewing people of color from around the world about their foods, culture, and their resistance to being appropriated by whiteness. Check them out!
The pupusa is NOT just a commodity for consumption. The pupusa is a story. It is the story of the people (almost entirely womxn) who make them. It is a story about migration and the hustle to survive and thrive. So make an effort and find out where the Salvadoran community is in your area. Support street vendors and local businesses.
This wonderful pin was made Afrochapinaca artist, Breena Nuñez Peralta. Follow her on Instagram at @breenache !