Saturday, February 23, 2008

Livin' La Vida Latina - Food and Drink

An old article I posted on TexasMonthly.com in the TexTalk section

Food and Drink Livin' La Vida Latina

posted on Friday, August 08, 2003 @ 14:17:46 CDT

By: Pia V. Pulido

"Livin' La Vida Latina"
Latin American culture is usually misunderstood because far too often, the terms "Hispanic," "Latino," and "Latin American" are used synonymously. Contrary to popular belief, Latin culture does not simply equate Mexican food. It is inclusive of countries that make up Latin America, where the Spanish language predominates. Latin America is a geographic location that describes countries south of the United States, including South America, Central America, Mexico, and the Caribbean. Recently, the growing number of the Latin American population in the United States has captured everyone's attention.

Originally from Venezuela, Carlos Branger, owner of Zaguan World Bakery and Cafe, is on a mission to seize the Latin explosion hype. A six-year Dallas resident, Branger discovered a good market for Latin culture, food, and music. Inspired by such hot Dallas spots that he and many fellow Latin American friends frequented such as Cafe Madrid and Gloria's, he saw the increasing trend of international culture booming locally.

He explains that Latin culture is a hot commodity because it is "very warm, very personal, very happy, and family-oriented, and it is most often expressed through our hospitality."

Zaguan became his vision. The term "zaguan" depicts the elaborate entry passage in the colonial homes popular in Venezuela, Spain, and Colombia. The zaguan is a "symbol of a literal ground marking hospitality."

Since it first opened in May 2002, Branger was determined to educate the community on Latin hospitality, while tempting the taste buds of food lovers all across town. Featuring far more than the Tex-Mex staple of fajitas and enchiladas, Zaguan offers an array of international breads, pastries, and cakes, as well as delicious hot meals and drinks. The signature Zaguan dish, "cachapas," are sweet corn turnovers grilled until the become soft and warm, then filled with cheese, ham, beef, chicken, and other items.

Latin restaurants like Zaguan, are no longer the only defining aspects of the culture. The latest Census Bureau reported that Latin Americans are one of the fastest-growing minority groups in the country, and their visibility in the U.S. has prompted business owners to cater to their buying power. Interestingly enough, however, the Latin Americans are not the only ones enjoying the trend, but it seems that people from all walks of life have embraced the culture as well.

So what is the politically correct and proper term to describe these Spanish-speaking groups that have made such a cultural impact these past few years? It does not really matter, actually. What matters is their pride in their cultural legacies that have made them become united, rather than divided.


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