As part of the journey of becoming a United States citizen, migrants from around the world and a variety of circumstances end up denouncing ties to their homeland in exchange for a chance at the American dream. While it is required that people abdicate citizenship to their country of origin, it is the traditions, memories and recipes they bring with them that make the U.S. a melting pot.
Similar to how Louisiana has a trademark cuisine (creole) that differs from the seafood fare you might encounter in Maine, countries like Mexico, too, represent numerous cultures, dialects, traditions and ways of eating.
Street food with a story in Sandy
"Every place is different," Yaneth Abnal said. "Where I'm from, Yucatan, we speak Maya. And the foods are different. A lot of people make tamales with corn and I make them with a banana leaf."
If you've only ever encountered tamales done one way — encased in corn husks — you're missing out on a whole different dish and lesson in Yucatan culture.
Abnal was raised until the age of 8 in Mexico before her family migrated to the United States. She's called Boring home for five years.
For Abnal's family, her traditional tamales are typically made and enjoyed for holidays like Thanksgiving or Christmas. But you can buy and try them — filled with either chicken or pork — at the Mount Hood Farmers Market every Friday in Sandy for $3 each, along with elotes, street corn.
Besides the south Mexican cuisine, Abnal also sells a collection of vividly embroidered Yucatecas clothing.
"I went to Mexico for two weeks and I met a lady who hand makes these (shirts, dresses and bags) and I thought I should buy some to take back," Abnal said. "I brought them back to share a bit of my culture."
Abnal got her start only this year in May when AntFarm reached out to her about her tamales. After a few weeks of cooking at the market, Abnal hit a paperwork roadblock in getting her license to sell, and stopped coming.
"People wanted me back," Abnal said, explaining that her newly grown following was what helped her through the hardship of getting licensed for her food business and kept her encouraged. That and help from AntFarm by way of allowing her access to a commercial kitchen.
"I was first scared because I've never cooked for other people," Abnal said. "But if I don't risk anything, I'll never get anything."
Abnal has been surprised by the response her food has gotten from the Sandy community — Latino and otherwise.
Before branching out with her booth at the seasonal market, Abnal was a stay-at-home mom, caring for and feeding four children. Now, Abnal sees her business Ximena's Elotes y Tamales (named for her youngest daughter) as a way to "get to share a little bit of who you are" while also helping her husband provide for the family. Her children accompany her to the market, and her eldest daughter can often be seen taking orders and helping her mom prepare food.
"It's important for me (to share my heritage because) my kids are born here," she said. "If they don't get involved, they won't remember their culture."
Culture from a cart in Estacada
Growing up without a strong connection to his Mexican heritage, Sabor Yucateco owner Ivan Gongora, said being able to share his mother's recipes through their food cart has been a great way to learn about and be proud of his roots.
Opening in 2021, Sabor Yucateco sits on 360 S.W. Zobrist St., and primarily serves Southern Mexican cuisine that is influenced by Belize and Guatemalan dishes. Gongora and his mother Julissa Camara try to differentiate themselves from other carts by making their tortillas from scratch and using locally sourced ingredients for their salsa.
Some of the Southern Mexican delicacies include ground beef empanadas, tamales and the crowd favorite panuchos, which are tortillas filled with beans and topped with meat, cabbage, tomato, pickled red onion, avocado and pickled jalapeño pepper
Although Gongora is proud to share the foods he and his family grew up on, it wasn't always that way for the Estacada native.
"Growing up I kind of lost the culture because there were not as many Latinos in Estacada and the language kind of went away," Gongora said. "When I got older and met more (Latinos), I noticed that I had lost a connection to the culture."
Gongora said that being able to cook using his mother's recipes and working with and serving other Latinos in the area has made him gain a stronger connection to his community and heritage.
Ingredients to inspire
Estrada Supermarket, 1694 N.W. Fairview Drive in Gresham, has a lot to offer from a large selection Latin American items, an in-house butcher, a taco stand, a bakery and a fruit bar, but above all owner Domingo Estrada hopes his business can be a hub for community.
Although born in Los Angeles, Domingo's Mexican-immigrant parents brought he and family to Woodland, Washington, where he would grow up.
"In Woodland back in the 80s my family was the Hispanic population," Domingo said with a laugh. After several moves, Domingo and his family ended up in Vancouver, Washington, where his dad decided to open his own Latin American grocery store. Domingo would spend the next few years moving around gaining experience owning his own restaurant and working in distribution until he opened Estrada Supermarket in June 2021.
Having been in business little over a year, Domingo has developed a strong customer base of Latino and non-Latino customers. Domingo said he has noticed that Latin products and foods are becoming more and more popular, and many visitors seem eager to learn about Hispanic ingredients and tastes.
"One of our goals here is to give demonstration and cooking classes because some of my non-Hispanic customers might not know how to use cotija cheese," Domingo said. "So, there is a lot we can do to share these foods and ingredients."
Domingo also hopes to open a sports bar adjacent to the store in time for soccer fans to enjoy the World Cup in November. With the bar, Domingo plans to bring in local and international Latin bands as well as have instructors teach Latin dances like cumbia.
National Hispanic Heritage Month — Sept. 15 through Oct. 15 — is observed with the purpose of recognizing the contributions that Hispanic American people have made to the culture, success and history of the United States. Hispanic Heritage Month also coincides with the days Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Honduras, Chile, Belize and Nicaragua gained their independence from Spain. Those of Hispanic heritage come from a variety of backgrounds and nations including Spain and Central and South American countries, such as Mexico, Guatemala, Cuba, Colombia, Puerto Rico, Argentina and more. Hispanic Americans make up 18.7% of the United States' population as business owners, parents, students — your neighbors.
Estrada Supermarket — Gresham
Supermacado, frutería, carnicería y tacorceria
1694 N.W. Fairview Dr., Gresham
9 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Sunday
Sabor Yucatan — Estacada
Southern Mexican food truck
390 S.W. Zobrist St., Estacada
Ximena's Elotes y Tamales— Sandy
Street corn, tamales and Yucatecas clothing for sale
Mount Hood Farmers Market,
38600 Proctor Blvd., Sandy
3-7 p.m. Fridays through October
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