If any dish can play the part of humble immigrant food, it’s the pupusa, the savory masa cake from El Salvador that practically feeds the nation morning, noon and night
— Tim Carman


I’ve lived in the United States all my life. My relationship with my parents and family in the states are strong however I’m not connected to my family in South America. The only references I have of them are the stories that my grandparents bring back from their visits in Guatemala and El Salvador. My grandpa explains that El Salvador cherishes the pupusa as a main dish. It’s a food that is recognized by tradition and is one small example that separates our heritage from others.

The older generation of my family brings tradition to gatherings back from their home countries. In particular, the women make it a priority to enrich our holidays with culture as taught by their mothers. These women make it such an importance that the newer generation of family feels excluded in the planning and participation of holidays and birthdays. In the eyes of my older generation, being born in America or coming from another family doesn’t allow you to partake in enforcing tradition because you are not FROM our country, you are FROM America. This pathetic excuse will of course cause tension between our families. With this mindset, traditions can’t be passed on from generation to generation and we lose our heritage with time. My aunts born in South America make each recipe a secret. It’s taken years for them to perfect their mother’s dishes. According to my grandma, it’s too hard to make pupusas alone and requires extreme skill to perfect the dish.

Click to view the recipe for delicious Pupusas! 

Click to view the recipe for delicious Pupusas! 

However, with the newer generation being as tech savvy as we are, it becomes easy to find the traditions of our home countries. My mother found several pupusa recipes on YouTube. My mother and I sat by the television intently watching several Salvadorian women make pupusas as the husbands or sons recorded them. I loved the idea and we continued to search up more ethnic food, some that wasn’t even brought to our family. The power of YouTube is amazing and never-ending.  We’ve experimented with different types of cheese, meats, and beans to find the one that suits my household best. I experimented with different types of masa consistencies to find which complimented our stuffing. My Dad came home from a week long business trip with the smell of melted cheese throughout the house. He was excited to divulge into a plate and shared our creation on Facebook. Immediately, other family members commented, asking and demanding how he bribed the Tias for the recipe. My mom simply explained she got it off the internet and used some trial and error to recreate the masterpiece.

In the next couple of years there is going to be a lot of change. Many women that married into my family are going to experiment with our foods and participate in our traditions. It’s going to be fun but also challenging. I believe it’s a change for the best.


My mother and I hosted a tamale party. My mom invited many of her coworkers and friends. We packed the house full of gringas who didn’t even know what a tamale was. I watched them make food and explain the different varieties of tamales. For that day, we only made the regular tamales stuffed with masa and meat in a corn husk. However, I told them about candy and jungle tamales. Jungle tamales are from Guatemala and use a banana/palm leaf instead of a corn husk. Personally, I prefer regular tamales than jungle tamales.

When the tamales where in the pot for steaming, we all watched movies and talked. Many of them asked my more about my culture and family. It was nice to be the center of attention but in reality I don’t feel any different from my mother’s friends. We all celebrated the same holidays and have very similar traditions. My parents and I lived in the United States all our life. Many of our friends and family are our neighbors and coworkers. Once the tamales where done and served I couldn’t help but laugh. One poor girl didn’t know how to eat a tamale and simply sucked on it like a lollipop. My mother gave everyone utensils and showed them all how to open and eat a tamales. They all loved them and packed some to take home. It’s disappointing to me that I have never cooked once with my family, however I will always cherish this day cooking with friends.

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