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October 31, 2023

Black Mexicans, Part 2: Tracing the foodways of Black Seminoles and Mexicans in Texas and Mexico

By: Mando Rayo

There is so much untold and uncovered history of the African diaspora, especially that within the lineages of slavery. Food can signal a variety of possibilities within history, and in this episode, we examine the melding and the migration of Black Seminoles across Texas and into Mexico. We join Windy Goodloe and Corina Torralba Harrington, both descendants of Black Seminoles and of Mexican heritage for a Juneteenth celebration in Brackettville before making a pilgrimage to Nacimiento de los Negros in Coahuila, Mexico. We uncover their connecting points, foodways, and how they are preserving and continuing their culture and history.

The full transcript of this episode of Tacos of Texas is available on the KUT & KUTX Studio website. The transcript is also available as subtitles or captions on some podcast apps.

Intro My name is Heath and I’m with the African American Leadership Institute here in Austin. To me, tacos sound like crispy, crunchy goodness with those warm, shell seasoned ground beef and that fresh cheese and lettuce. Mm, mm, mm. This is Heath. And when I’m out tasting the goodness of Ken’s Tacos, you can catch me listening to the Tacos of Texas on KUT with the homie, Mando Rayo.

Mando Rayo What up, taco world? I’m taco journalist Mando Rayo and welcome to the Tacos of Texas Podcast season tres, tres, tres, produced by Identity Productions in partnership with KUT and KUTX Studios. And we’re back exploring taco culture in Texas through the eyes of the people in the Lone Star State. So grab your pasaportes y lonches and get ready for some muy tasty taco conversations. [music]

Mando Rayo In this episode, part two of Black Mexicans, we’re traveling south of the border to Nacimiento de los Negros, or the birthplace of the Black people just outside Múzquiz, Coahuila, Mexico. Now, if you haven’t tuned in to part one, I suggest you go back and listen to the first part of Black Mexicans to fully understand how we’re digging into the culture and foodways of Black Seminoles and Mexicans in Texas and Mexico. And this part of our pilgrimage, we catch up with Corina Torralba Harrington of the Seminole Indian Scout Cemetery Association for a Juneteenth celebration in Mexico. We uncover their connecting points foodways and the people of Nacimiento, who are preserving and continuing their culture and history. We’ll also talk with Corina’s father, Juan Manuel Torralba Hernandez and Laura Herrera, owner of the restaurant El Maná de Cielito that specializes in preserving Black Seminole food traditions. And a reminder for you on Spanish speakers out there. These episodes will be in Español and Inglés. So make sure you bring out your Duolingo or listen with a Spanish speaking friend. [music] As we were getting ready to go to our trip, not only in Texas to Brackettville, but as well as into México, I had to get everything organized, you know, the car rental, the permits and visiting the Mexican consulate. And I did that. And, you know, I went to the car rental and they said, Oh, that’s all you need. Here’s the here’s the paperwork you’ll need. I went to the Mexican consulate. They’re like, Yeah, you can fix everything, you know, when you cross over into the border. So I’m like, Hey, I got my passport. I’m good. Let’s go. And of course, you know, we ended up leaving Brackettville on a Sunday morning at eight in the morning. Right? You just, we went to go eat. We packed up, you know, some some supplies, and we crossed over into Mexico with the car rental. Of course we checked in into the aduana to, you know, get our personal permits but as well as the permit for the car because you can’t really go into México outside of like, you know, the local border town without a permit. So we were there and I showed the officer the paperwork and they’re like, Well, we’re going to need the title of the car. And I’m like, what? No, this is a car rental. And ultimately what we had to do is like, really kind of figure out like, okay, how do we get in and just follow the story? Because we had one day to do it. And you know what we just had? Let’s go. And so we just went and went for it, you know, went straight and got into, you know, the freeway. And luckily no issues happened. Maybe maybe a little flat tire, but that was on the return anyway. So pro tip, if you’re going to go into Mexico and you have all your paperwork and everything’s all set, that’s probably not going to work either. So there you go. [music fades, crunch sound effect] Oh, it’s taco time. And now here’s a word from our sponsors from me. Vamos a Chuco Town con Visit El Paso. It’s the hometown of this taco journalist. For those craving an outdoor adventure, El Paso has all you need and more than you expected. Enjoy the city’s convenient location to nearby state parks and sites and explore miles of mountain trails, natural beauty, animals and more. Towering above the city of El Paso is Franklin Mountain State Park, the largest state park in an urban setting. You can hike rugged terrain in 37 square miles of desert wilderness, scrub vegetation and open space and conquer over 125 miles of multi-use trails that are especially popular with mountain bikers. Hueco Tank State Park and historic site at Hueco Tanks, visitors can hike, try rock climbing and bouldering, birdwatching, study nature, picnic and stargaze. Also available are guided and self-guided tours to view ancient rock glyphs. Stop by the interpretive center in a historic ranch house to learn more about the park and its history, which has good access to our friends at Visit El Paso for sponsoring this podcast episode. Follow Visit El Paso on Instagram and Facebook at Visit El Paso or on their website at Visit El Paso dot com. [music] Corina, we made it. It’s so hot here.

Corina Torralba Harrington Yes, I’m glad that, you know, you were able to just go ahead and just say, I’m going and you’re here.

Mando Rayo Yeah.

Corina Torralba Harrington Sometimes we have to do that.

Mando Rayo Yeah, I know. Because it is a trek. It’s a trek coming from Brackettille, crossing the border and dealing with all kinds of things and then making sure you get on the on the freeway, on the…¿Cómo se dice aquí?

Corina Torralba Harrington Autopista.

Mando Rayo Autopista! And make sure nobody stops you and then you get here, right? Exactly. So I’m excited to be here. I’m excited to learn and explore what’s in store for el diecinueve de Junio.

Corina Torralba Harrington What’s in store here for diecinueve: it’ll be a lot of food and a lot of dancing, but it will be an all day celebration.

Mando Rayo Well, it sounds like my kind of party. Estamos aquí and I can, it feels good to be here in Mexico once I come here. I just feel like, okay, this is where my peoples are at. This is where the raza is and whether it’s going down the streets or the panadería, getting some tacos or exploring a new community community like Nacimiento. It feels good to be here. So thanks for the invitation. For sure.

Corina Torralba Harrington Thank you for coming.

Mando Rayo Okay, we’ll see. We’ll see you, I guess. We’re going to see you tomorrow.

Corina Torralba Harrington Yes, tomorrow. We’ll be out there in the heat. [music]

Mando Rayo We’re starting a little earlier here in Mexico at 5:30 in the morning. And I’m not surprised because we’re going to make a whole day out of this. And because you know what? It’s Mexican time now, baby. Primer orden del dia, la cabalgata Our morning starts at 9 a.m. with a procession of horses and their riders. It’s part of the celebration here at Nacimiento. It’s part of how they show their culture and their pride. After that, there will be a midday meal cooked over long hours by amazing women of the town. And last thing on tonight’s schedule is a baile that starts at 9 p.m.. So, you know, I’m going to bring my cumbia moves to this party, getting to know Nacimiento. You have to start with some of the elders, and that’s Corina’s father, Juan Manuel Torralba Hernández. We’ll talk to him about some of his earliest memories and the significance of his raices with Black Seminoles. [guitar strums] [start Spanish] ¿Me dice su nombre y dónde estamos?

Juan Manuel Torralba Hernández Soy Juan Manuel Torralba Hernández y estamos en el Nacimiento de los Negros en el municipio de Múzquiz, Coahuila.

Mando Rayo ¿Y qué van a hacer hoy?

Juan Manuel Torralba Hernández Como estamos celebrando el Juneteenth de todos los años.

Mando Rayo Sí. Cuánto tiempo tiene haciendo la celebración? Que usted sabe?

Juan Manuel Torralba Hernández Que yo sepa. Hubo muchos años atrás, pero fue un nosotros desde que continuamos todo eso siempre se ha celebrado este. Pero nosotros continuamos todavía, pues es nuestro.

Mando Rayo ¿La tradición?

Juan Manuel Torralba Hernández Sí, la tradición.

Mando Rayo Y la cultura.

Juan Manuel Torralba Hernández Sí. Cuando se hubo los que dieron libre a luz a los esclavos en Estados Unidos.

Mando Rayo Y aquí se quedaron.

Juan Manuel Torralba Hernández O sea que no la familia que andaba. Y ya para ese tiempo, cuando allá estaban dándoles libertad estos negritos, ya andaban a mis antepasados.

Mando Rayo Mhm.

Juan Manuel Torralba Hernández Andaban acá porque se vinieron huyendo de la esclavitud esclavitud, pues también los mataban a los que agarraban, que se vendían según cuentan, y historias medias tristonas.

Mando Rayo Sí, sí.

Juan Manuel Torralba Hernández Eso que es un.  Pues es un motivo de celebración porque siempre lo hacían y con con mucho gusto y siempre nosotros continuábamos porque la tradición.

Mando Rayo Es parte de…

Juan Manuel Torralba Hernández Sí.

Mando Rayo …su sangre, no?

Juan Manuel Torralba Hernández Sí.

Mando Rayo Sí. Y porque es importante de ustedes poner esta celebración aquí en México?

Juan Manuel Torralba Hernández Pues es que siempre lo hemos hecho, siempre y desde los antepasados de nosotros siempre se ha celebrado.

Mando Rayo Sí. Bueno, y este las las, las comidas que van a ser hoy, que cómo se representan?

Juan Manuel Torralba Hernández Pues es como siempre, era lo que se hacía. Sí, sí, carnitas y empanadas y atole y todo lo que hacían antes y siguen todavía haciéndolo.

Mando Rayo Sí. Su hija es Corina.

Juan Manuel Torralba Hernández Corina.

Mando Rayo Y ella, ella está bien involucrar clara a preservar todo, todas las historias, verdad?

Juan Manuel Torralba Hernández Sí siempre, desde que empezó a darse cuenta de que ya le intereso bastante. Pos como quiera ya tuvo su cuenta. Nosotros pues no tuvimos tiempo de eso. En entiendes que porque tuvimos que emigrar también. Pero como quiera agarraron su escuela.

Mando Rayo Mhm.

Juan Manuel Torralba Hernández Estados Unidos y se enteran por. Sí.

Mando Rayo Y ustedes también van hoy. Verdad?

Juan Manuel Torralba Hernández Sí, sí. Vamos. Yo he estado en Brackett, en celebraciones.

Mando Rayo En Brackettville en Texas.

Juan Manuel Torralba Hernández Sí, en Brackettville en Tejas y pues tenemos bastante familia también.

Mando Rayo Así que ya estamos nosotros allá. Y noté que le estaba diciendo a Windy y a Corina que todos son familiares.

Juan Manuel Torralba Hernández Sí, sí.

Mando Rayo Verdad?

Juan Manuel Torralba Hernández De una manera u otra. Sí.

Mando Rayo Me parece decir poquito más de Nacimiento de la gente, de si alguien quería aprender de la cultura aquí, que qué les. Qué les decía usted a ellos?

Juan Manuel Torralba Hernández No pues es que aquí pus siempre se difunde, siempre. Pus tenemos, tenemos amigos y tenemos familiares afuera. Y y hay muchos amigos que usted va a mirar más el rato que vienen de Rosita, Paula, Uy y otros pueblos, inclusive de Saltillo, y ve que vienen también. Pues yo creo que son amigos porque vienen de agarran su tiempo, no les importa el día ni para venir

Mando Rayo Mhm.

Juan Manuel Torralba Hernández Con nosotros.

Mando Rayo Sí, sí. Y cuando era cuando usted descubrió que que sus raíces eran de los Seminole negros.

Juan Manuel Torralba Hernández Por siempre, siempre se han ido. Pues hablamos de eso, de de los negros más jóvenes, de los negros y menos. Pero sí, después se nos hizo un examen de. Y ahí te das cuenta cuánto tienes de, de Seminole.

Mando Rayo Oh, sí, sí, sí, sí, sí. Ya tenemos mucha tecnología. Verdad? Antes no más era pues.

Juan Manuel Torralba Hernández Sí, bueno, pues sí, es por curiosidad, pero pues es una de las cosas que se comprueban con con la ciencia.

Mando Rayo Mhm .

Juan Manuel Torralba Hernández Ya no nomás porque apareces y no parece posible, porque pues mi papá era negrito limpio, mi mamá mexicana limpia.

Mando Rayo Sí.

Juan Manuel Torralba Hernández Ya no saliste ni negro, ni mexi–, ni blanco, dicen. Sí, pero pues sabemos que que la raíz es…

Juan Manuel Torralba Hernández Cosa que uno sea estamos orgullosos otros no, pero pero pues no importa, cada quien tiene su manera de pensar.

Mando Rayo Sí.

Juan Manuel Torralba Hernández Sí, y aunque tengamos diferencias en muchas cosas, pero cuando hay que por eso hablamos, platicamos. [guitar strumming fades] [end Spanish]

Mando Rayo After talking with el señor Torralba Hernández, you know, you kind of have this understanding of the way things are, especially in a small town in Mexico, in a little pueblito, it’s all about doing things because that’s the way they were done. Right. Mr. Torralba Hernández shared some of his earliest memories of like, Hey, this is what we did. We, we gathered together to do the celebration, this, diece, diecenueve de junio, or “diecenueve” is what they call it. It just like one of the things that he grew up when he was a kid. And now that he’s older, you know, really like tuning in to understanding his heritage with the Black Seminoles and how he’s proud of that. You know, he’s proud of that effort and he’s proud of Corina, too, of how she’s been able to dig into some of that history. For him, it was like, hey, you know, this is what we come from. This is the truth. He understood the plight of the people, the Black Seminoles, and that’s where his heritage is and that’s where it comes from. And even though he, you know, in earlier years in his childhood and going into adulthood, he didn’t really understand why or how. Now he has a strong understanding. And partly that is because, you know, his daughter is really focused on preserving some of that history. Part of what he shared was that we should honor that. It doesn’t matter what you think, but if you honor the truth, the truth will show you that, you know, they have that lineage, that Black Seminole lineage. We’re just outside Nacimiento in a little park where a lot of families come together to celebrate June 19th. And where you have is a lot of women doing a lot of that prep work that we see in a lot of Mexican homes. So on one side, there’s a tent full of women preparing everything that needs to get done. And that and on the other side you have fire pits, five, six fire pits that they’re making all of their dishes for today’s celebration, they have what looks like casos and discos and pots that has cortadito which is a bit of a it looks like a beef stew with jalapenos and tomatoes and spices. You have rice being cooked on an open fire. Calabacitas, or squash, being cooked, frijole rancheros, and of course, sofkee, which is the Indigenous traditional dish that they make here in Nacimiento, and all of them cut in an open fire. So as the food is getting cold, I see just, I mean, it’s still going, you know, the assembly line, the women chatting and talking, but as well as making sure that they everything gets done, that cilantro is getting chopped, the onions, the garlic to being pulled apart. Everybody’s comparing notes here. We’ve got cooked potatoes, whole potatoes, chopping jalapenos and onions for the salsa and and everybody just reminiscing together and enjoying enjoying today’s event.

Women at festival No se la quisieron dejar, la llanta no se la quisieron dejar.

Mando Rayo Quiere es la la la friolera aquí? [laughs]

Women at festival No, no, se dice la, la cocinera.

Mando Rayo Sí, pero ya te están haciendo los deberes. Ah, preparándolas, prepararlas todas para.

Women at festival Que falte el ajo. Ándale, le falta un largo Que pique tomates. El tomate es toda pareja.

Mando Rayo Pareja. ¡Ándele!

Women at festival que algo no sale bien contra todos.

Mando Rayo ¡Ándele! [laughs] Y qué van a cocinar?

Women at festival Cortadillo. Cortadillo a rancheros Copa de sopa de arroz y caldo. Calabacita con pollo. Sofkee.

Mando Rayo Sofkee!

Women at festival Sofkee y la empanada.

Mando Rayo La empanada de papa. Puré de papa. Y eso que lo es en grano o molida?

Women at festival No, en grano.

Mando Rayo En grano.

Women at festival And well.

Mando Rayo Se muele.

Women at festival Se muele con él y queda puré de papa. Te digo que le digas nada tan grave a ensalada de papa.

Mando Rayo Y ensalada de papa. Ándele, ya está hirviendo.

Women at festival Ya está hirviendo.

Mando Rayo Buenísimo.

Women at festival Lo más que se nos hizo a tarde porque por.

Mando Rayo Sí. Aquí estamos, verdad?

Women at festival Sí. A la hora que sea la comida se come.

Mando Rayo A cuando? Cuando esté la comida [music] Waiting for the cabalgata, I was excited. Some of the young kids, they’re waiting for those horses to come through. And as soon as they did, it was awesome. You just saw them, you know, prance down the road with pride. It’s a Monday. It’s Juneteenth. And they were dressed for the part. I love seeing the pride and the culture shown through not only the whole Juneteenth celebration here in Nacimiento, but the cabalgata, the horse ride, the promenade. And something that I saw was young people riding horses, young and old. But yeah, it was the young folks that were like, Hey, this is my culture, this is my pride, and here’s how I’m going to show it. And they showed their pride through the culture by galloping down that road. It was a real honor to witness that. Our next guest is Ms. Laura Herrera, and she owns a restaurant called Maná de Cielito, which specializes in Negro Mascogo, Black Seminole cuisine. We’re going to talk to her about her identity and how she brings in her food culture to continue the legacy of Black Seminoles in Nacimiento.

Laura Herrera Hola, bienvenidos Armando. Mi nombre Laura Herrera, soy Afro Mexicana de la tribu Negros Mascogos aquí en Coahuila. Mi lugar de comida tradicional se llama El Mana de Cielito. El sabor de la tradición, Negros Mascogos.

Mando Rayo Y qué tipo de comida hace usted?

Laura Herrera Principalmente es comida tradicional negros mascogos vaya algunas de nuestras recetas se tuvieron que hacer unos pequeños ajustes o modificaciones para poderlas comercializar, ya que el aspecto o la presentación de cómo lo comía mi abuela. Yo voy a hablar única y exclusivamente de lo que viví yo en mi familia, de lo que vivió. Viví con mi abuela.

Mando Rayo Sí.

Laura Herrera Con mi mamá. La presentación no era como la apta para poderla comercializar y por ello se hicieron algunos ajustes, pero teniendo exactamente el mismo sabor de mi abuela.

Mando Rayo Y que eso me puede dar a los platillos tradicionales. Y cómo cambiar?

Laura Herrera Mira, yo tengo registrados mentalmente alrededor de 120 platillos tradicionales más en el en el maná, en El Cielito. Uno de los platillos principales que vendemos es el pan de maíz que nosotros hacemos. Nuestra propia harina de maíz es todo un proceso para empezar sembrar el maíz, cuidarlo, cosecharla, secarlo, después, pasarlo por el mortero, remojar algunos días hasta que el maíz tome una consistencia agria, después volverlo a secar, después pasarlo por el molino, colarlo o servirlo para que se haga la fina siguiente, ponerlo a secar y de ahí comenzar a hacer nuestro pan de maíz. Es ese es uno de los platillos que si te soy sincera, de los que más me gustan a mi tenemos el pan de camote, tenemos la empanada de calabaza, tenemos el chiles y mi norte, el chile si es un chile poblano relleno con cuatro quesos, carne molida integrada envuelto en milanesa y tocino, cocinado lentamente las brasas. Ahora puede haber quien diga esto no es un platillo tradicional negro mascogos. Estoy totalmente de acuerdo. El sabor sí es porque mi abuela comía la carne con el queso.

Mando Rayo Sí.

Laura Herrera Este sabor de ese chile, ese mi dulce. Por qué? Porque mi abuela comía miel con la carne,  miel con el frijol, miel con el queso. Ahora, yo quisiera entender o quiero entender, que era porque sus labores en el campo eran demasiado fuertes o demasiado cansadas. Entonces con esto recuperaban energía, lo que era con su queso, que ellos tenían alzado medio seco y con la miel de abeja. Entonces ellos volvían a agarrar energías para volver a trabajar más tarde, ya que se calmaba un poquito el sol, cocinaba las brasas. Ah, porque en la labor cuando iban al campo ellos llevaban su manteca de puerco y comía el manteca de puerco era en ocasiones dice mi mamá y se mi abuela que solamente cenaban manteca de puerco caliente en un plato de peltre remojado con el pan de maíz y esa era su cena. Ahora la manteca de puerco va en el tocino, en la carne, la milanesa en la milanesa, la embarramos de la manteca de puerco pa ponerla en las brazas porque? Porque queremos dar el sabor de la carne que ella comía cuando la ponía a quemar. Solamente hembras dirían ahora técnicas que sacan los chefs por ahí de manera primitiva, pero para nosotros es nuestra manera de cocinar.

Mando Rayo Sí, y todo sabe, sabe mejor con leña en las brasas.

Laura Herrera Decía mi abuela. Con ceniza.

Mando Rayo Con ceniza.

Laura Herrera De hecho, hay alguna receta por ahí de nosotros en un atole que nuestro ingrediente secreto o nuestro ingrediente ahí es la ceniza.

Mando Rayo La ceniza. Taquito la ceniza, verdad? [laughs]

Laura Herrera El taquito la ceniza.

Mando Rayo Dígame de su mortero.

Laura Herrera Bueno, el mortero que tengo en mi familia. Que tenemos en mi familia. Este es un mortero de un árbol que no conozco si te soy sincera.

Mando Rayo Sí.

Laura Herrera Yo tengo 50 años, bueno, prácticamente 50 ya mañana o pasado por decir este, cumplo 50 años y a mi abuela se lo regaló un capullo cuando yo tenía como entre 4 a 6 años y el mortero sigue vivo, sigue funcionando, sigue bien, la madera sigue clara, no se ha oscurecido, pero los morteros han estado a lo largo de toda nuestra vida en la comunidad más Koga, puesto que es una herramienta muy importante, se usaba para machacar la carne cuando poníamos carne seca para machacar el maíz.

Mando Rayo Para sofkee?

Laura Herrera El sofkee para el pan de maíz que les acabo de comentar. Para moler el camote cuando no tenían no había con qué otra cosa. Ahora se utiliza mucho el rallador de queso para el camote para hacer el pan de camote. Pero antes, no, antes o era en el mortero o era en el metate. Entonces el metate. El mortero es una herramienta muy importante para la comunidad más joven.

Mando Rayo De qué generación de mascogo es usted?

Laura Herrera Mi bisabuela decía… Mi bisabuela decía que ella era de las niñas que habían llegado huyendo de la esclavitud. De hecho por ahí hay un documental y que donde mamá de hecho habla precisamente de ello, donde dice nos vinimos caminando porque decía es que mamá, mis papás dijeron que se habían venido, pero no les pregunté si caminando a caballo, entonces ahí existe esto. Entonces quiere decir que mi bisabuela fue de las niñas que llegó huyendo de la esclavitud.

Mando Rayo Y aquí usted se crió.

Laura Herrera Aquí nací.

Mando Rayo Nació.

Laura Herrera Aquí nací, aquí me crié aquí. Ha estado mucho tiempo de mi vida.

Mando Rayo De algunas influencias of… o una fusión de comidas que trajeron los negros mascogos a México. Y cómo cambiaron sobre el tiempo?

Laura Herrera Sí, hay muchísima fusión y ha cambiado porque seguiré platicando de lo que mi abuela me platicaba. Mi abuelo me platicaba que anteriormente, cuando eran las festividades del 19 de junio, era un picnic, era un día de campo entonces, o un centro de reunión familiar, como se podría traducir en inglés o español. Y había manteles que las señoras bordeaban todo el año para tener sus manteles y ponerlos en el piso. En la tierra no había mesas. O sea, no era poner manteles en el piso. Y cada quien arrimaba sus canastas de comida y compartían. Después ya comenzaron a cocinar para que venía más público o que venían otros invitados. Comenzaron a cocinar, pero era no había el Cortadillo. La carne que se cocinaba antes era una carnita cocinada con chili o con gravy, la carne muy doradita y se le agregaba finita y eso era una de las maneras. Hacía las empanadas, hacían ensalada de papa tradicional y le decimos tradicional porque era algo de lo que ellos hacían la ensalada de papa. Sí, el sofkee y ha habido mucha fusión ahora con la comida mexicana o con la comida de la región este de aquí de Coahuila. Entonces sí ha habido muchos cambios, de lo cual nuestros hijos no van a ir recordando. Supongo yo que mis nietos no van a van a recordar. Mi abuela decía que su abuela decía como lo digo yo mi mamá, mi abuela decía porque su mamá decía ahí va.

Mando Rayo Y esa es la palabra. Pues aquí estamos en el 19 de junio. Qué platillos vamos a a comer hoy?

Laura Herrera En esta ocasión habrá cortadillo, sofkee, ensalada de papa, frijoles y arroz, y las empanadas como postre que solo separados de calabaza que son cocinadas de la manera antigua que lo hacían nuestros antepasados, que es en acero. Esto es como un horno donde se le pone bracitos abajo y bracitos arriba.  Y aquí el secreto es encontrar el punto en que no queden crudas ni se quemen. Y eso es algo muy, muy bonito. Haciéndolo de la manera que lo hacían sus antepasados. Sigue vivo, sigue. Bueno, hay muchísimas señoras que lo saben aquí. Yo tengo miedo que se pierda. Para mi familia.

Mando Rayo Aceptarse.

Laura Herrera Yo soy la más vieja de mi familia, de mí, de mí, de mis hermanos. Soy la mayor de mis primos, de mis primas, de por el lado de mi mamá que somos la mamá de mi mamá. Es negra completamente. Entonces tengo miedo que yo, siendo la nieta más vieja, la la la con la que los demás se acercan que no saben si soy su tía o soy su prima, porque los chiquillos me dicen tía, los grandes me dicen prima. Yo tampoco, ya no sé. Tengo miedo de que eso se vaya a perder. Y viendo los años que duraba nuestros antepasados sin diabetes. El secreto tenía que ser la comida. Todos eran todas las mujeres. Si se dan cuenta, somos manchitas. Yo diría demasiado bonitas, somos curvilíneas, pero así eran nuestras abuelas, así eran antepasados los hombres. Aquí en la comunidad, la mayoría, el 98%, son altos y delgados. Las mujeres más anchita, pero con una salud pero tremenda. Mi abuela tiene 90 años, 90 y tantos años y está bien de salud, ni colesterol ni azúcar. Y el secreto definitivamente creo que era la alimentación.

Mando Rayo Entonces aquí estamos celebrando Juneteenth, el 19 de junio. Por qué es importante para usted?

Laura Herrera Para mí es importante por la ley y por la importancia que tenía para mí, para mi abuelo, por ver yo las ganas que ellos tenían de celebrar esto. En aquellos tiempos para mí solamente era una celebración. No sabía realmente lo que estábamos celebrando, era para mí solamente celebrar la fiesta el 19 de junio, que era cuando todos teníamos ropa nueva, zapatos nuevos. Era un motivo de celebración enorme. Ahorita ya de vieja me doy cuenta lo importante que es el ser libres de cualquier afro, cualquier raza, cualquier color de piel. Me doy cuenta de lo importante que es que ellos hubieran llegado aquí a México. Me doy cuenta de lo importante que debió de haber sido para ellos haber llegado a un lugar donde podían decidir no regresar a Estados Unidos, donde les ofrecieron regresar y no quisieron. Ahora, si a mí me ofrecieran regresar a un lugar donde maltrataban a mis hijos, a mi familia, yo no regresaría, yo me quedaría aquí. No importa que tuviera que trabajar la tierra y tuviera que trabajar de sol a sol, de sombras. No me importa. Yo me quedaría aquí o donde estuviera entonces. Hay gente que ahora dice Por qué no se regresaron? Estuviéramos mejor si estuviéramos en Estados Unidos. Tú te irías? A dónde te van a separar tarde o temprano de tus hijos? A donde posiblemente eres pie de cría. No creo que en la genética de nosotros haya sido nada más hecho al azar, a como nacen los muchachos altos y fuertes y nosotros robustas, tuviéramos que haber sido pie de cría.

Mando Rayo Sí, sí. Y aquí tiene todo.

Laura Herrera Aquí tenemos todo. Aquí tenemos todo. Tenemos agua. Tenemos nuestro río. Tenemos la libertad de poder caminar, comer animal silvestre, comer, comer hierba silvestres, comer frutas silvestres. Tenemos todo. Los negros somos los más jóvenes. Somos bendecidos. Dios puso los ojos sobre nosotros. Y quiero aclarar algo. Para ser negro mascogos. Para nosotros no es importante el color de piel, sino nuestro legado, nuestros usos, sus costumbres, la tradición, nuestra raíz. Quién somos? No es como que alguien venga y diga porque a mí me han dicho Pero tú no eres negra o tus nietos no son negros. También trato de entender por qué estamos tan mestizos. Nuestros antepasados no nos dejaban que nos casáramos entre nosotros mismos en todos los juegos. Yo es mi propia teoría de que en el camino tuvieron que haber muertos papá y mamá y tuvieron que quedar niños huérfanos. Y algunas familias los adoptaron y los dejaron como sus hijos. No dijeron No eres mi hijo. Entonces era más fácil para ellos decir No se casen entre ustedes. Por qué? Porque posiblemente algunos eran primos hermanos o hermanos. Desde entonces. De ahí nace nuestro mestizaje. Algunos niños tienen la piel un poquito más oscura, algunos están como yo, algunos están más rubios. Pero lo más interesante de todo es que en una familia puedes tener un niño de piel oscura y un niño con ojos claros. Ya mezcla lleno.

Mando Rayo [laughs] No, pero esto es. Esta es la historia. Su historia.

Laura Herrera Mi historia.

Mando Rayo Su historia.

Laura Herrera Mi historia.

Mando Rayo Y eso es importante. Y con eso, muchas, muchísimas gracias por compartir con nosotros.

Laura Herrera Total, iba a hablar de changarro y ya ni hablé de ese changarro. [both laugh] [end Spanish]

Mando Rayo Miss Laura Hernandez shared how she’s connected to Black Seminoles, her lineage, her heritage, and then it all goes back to her grandmother. This idea around understanding, you know, the cooking methods and those traditional ways, whether it’s the sofkee or whether it’s, you know, the bread that they made using the mortero to to grind the corn. And that’s what she’s trying to represent through her restaurant, Maná de Cielito. Whether it’s through the dishes, through the ingredients, through the process of, you know, using old techniques like the mortero or making the bread or or even infusing, obviously, you know, thinking about what’s available locally now, whether it’s, you know, pork fat or digging into, you know, cabrito. And she uses those old techniques, but as well as, you know, creates that fusion of what’s what’s available now. What’s available now is pork fat. Right. And meat and cabrito and different ways that she represents her food. And for Señora Herrera, she mentioned that it’s not about she’s trying to represent all of you know that heritage around being a Black Seminole. But it’s about her own experience, her mother’s experience and her grandmother’s experience and how she can learn from that and as well as the importance of her actually passing that forward to the younger generation. And then sometimes those younger generation, they see her as, you know, an aunt, but they also see her as a mother. And so it’s it’s kind of like that big mix because it’s such a small town, such a small community. It’s a little pueblo, Nacimiento is such a small pueblo that, you know, everybody knows each other. And that’s ultimately what she’s trying to do is kind of, you know, capture that and through her food, through her restaurant, but as well as through the storytelling, you know, she’s definitely has a lot to say. And I appreciate that because she can share the stories of Nacimiento, the people of Nacimiento, and as well as her own story. Right off the bat with her interview, she said, this is my story, my story and how I want to represented. Señora Herrera also share the importance of diecenueve or Juneteenth, right in in Mexico. And I think for her, she was like, you know, it doesn’t matter of your Afro, whatever race, whatever color of your skin. It’s important that you honor the people where they come from. And part of that is that lineage of being a Black Seminole, but also infused with the Mexican culture as well. And so I think that was super important. And she got, you know, I think, a little emotional around that identity that she has. And I think it’s reflective, you know, after meeting with her, you’ll see some photos of her and her mother and and some family members are on on the podcast notes. So be sure to look out for that. [piano score] [palo rhythmically hits the mortero] So right now they’re grinding the corn with a little bit of water on the mortero and the palo, which is made out of a think of a tall mortar to grind spices. It’s long. Looks like the trunk of a small tree and a thick stick to crush the corn. And that’s the first process of many to make sofkee.

Women at festival [Spanish]Puede usarse tambien para el mortero para el pan agrio, este mismo proceso pero un poquito mas complicado que dura el hacer para hace el pan agrio que dura 20 dias a un mes para hacer el pan agrio.

Mando Rayo Okay.

Women at festival  Pero este es soske maiz lo podemos aguardar perfectamente ya listo y nada mas utilizar.

Mando Rayo Si, a utilizar and as they pound it, the kernels get broken down.

Women at festival  Pereme, pereme, pereme, pues ya se la hecho usted.

Mando Rayo [laughs] The kernels get broken down. They’re soft and different pieces, different sizes. After the corn is grounded, they put it into a tin sifter to take out some of the unrefined pieces of the corn. And what’s left is what they use to make the sofkee. [music plays] People really do come out for the culture, whether it’s Black Seminoles or being Mexican. Let’s talk to some folks that are here for the celebration.

Women at festival My name is Dean Arradondo Rodriguez. My dad and mom were born here, Nacimiento. I live in Lubbock, Texas, and I traveled here from there. We usually come, try to come for every Juneteenth for the last about eight years when they were they were having. And so we were glad to come today and enjoy it with all of our cousins. It’s like a big family reunion.

Mando Rayo Yeah, it feels like it. It feels like it.

Women at festival I’m seeing a lot of my cousins and my aunts and uncles.

Mando Rayo Yeah, that’s so cool.

Women at festival It’s a wonderful celebration now. It’s just hot.

Mando Rayo Is this your daughter?

Women at festival This is my daughter Ashley.

Mando Rayo You want to come say hi?

Mando Rayo Hi. What’s. What’s your name?

Women at festival I’m Ashley Rodriguez.

Mando Rayo And where did you come from?

Women at festival I’m from Lubbock, Texas.

Mando Rayo From Lubbock.

Women at festival She lives in San Angelo. But I live in San Angelo, Texas.

Mando Rayo Okay.

Women at festival So we came together with my cousin Vanessa.

Mando Rayo Of course. Hi, Vanessa, how are you? Okay. You got here. What are your initial thoughts?

Women at festival I just enjoy coming out over here to be proud of my heritage and to be able to celebrate this day. I didn’t start coming here until I was probably about six years old. And so over here in the communidad in Nacimiento, there’s so much history and it’s a piece of my heart. I have a lot of family history out here and a lot of different cousins, aunts, uncles, a lot of family members that live here. So it’s, it holds a special place in my heart.

Mando Rayo That’s beautiful. What about you? What was your first initial… you got here just in time for the, for the calbagata, right.

Women at festival Yes. Yes. I thought I missed it because they had started earlier, but we got here just in time. They’re soon going to be serving the comida and then we’ll see what else they’re going to have. And then later they’ll have another jarabe [tapatío], the rodeo. And then the dance will be at 9:00 tonight.

Mando Rayo Oh, I will definitely be at the dance. I got myself a brand new gorra.

Women at festival Oh, you like to do cumbias?

Mando Rayo Oh, thank you. Thank you all so much, it was great to see you again. [piano plays] [transition music plays into guitar music] After a long day of seeing these amazing women cook, we got some pretty tasty morsels Platillos de We have the cortadito with carne de res in a stew with in as well as calabacitas. Can’t go wrong with frijole rancheros con weenies, bro. That’s good. Arroz made encampo style. And, of course, a jalapeño, can’t go wrong with that. [sound of chewing] You know how I do. Estilo amor a mordida Whoa. That was spicy. [coughs] I thought potato salad was a Southern thing. And here we are in Mexico eating potato salad. It’s yummy with eggs, too. And of course, we have some tortitas, and a very familiar empanada de camote. Sweet potato. Very sweet, very delicious. And the final thing I’m going to taste is the sofkee. Okay. Next is the atole, which is the corn, slow cooked boiled with cenizas I guess in which is the bits of ash. It’s white, very white. And with bits of yellow. There we go. Mm. Hmm. Oh, man. That’s sweet. Reminds me of arroz con leche. Man, you know, if you think about a warm drink on a hot summer day, 110 degrees. That’s what you need. It’s exactly what you need. And it’s delicious. It’s sweet. That added sugar gives it that sweetness. And I mean, and it’s that white corn. The white corn that you see everywhere in Mexico, because, you know, we’re used to the yellow corn up in the norte. And I think that’s just overrated. I’m all about the white corn and man, that’s tasty. That’s tasty – sofkee. Sofkee is that traditional dish that is still is still with us with the Black Seminoles south of the border in Nacimiento. And we saw it come through not only with the people where you see the people gathering at the event at the party and you saw their culture through their eyes, through what they wear, their dishes and their traditions, the dresses and how everybody comes out and they honor their heritage, and I am down with that. [music] Corina. We made it. It was quite the celebration here in Nacimiento.

Corina Torralba Harrington Yes. Thank you for, for just coming and checking out you know what our celebration is about.

Mando Rayo Yeah. Yeah, it’s cool. I love just kind of learning about obviously talking to different folks here, learning about, you know, the Black Seminoles here in Nacimiento and how people are really kind of holding onto their their roots. Right. Even though they may not know the dates or how it came to be, the celebration, they they have that pride in being negros mascogos.

Corina Torralba Harrington Yes, because a lot of our histories here in Mexico, a lot of it’s oral history. So they heard the stories from their ancestors, their grandmas, great grandmas about the struggle.

Mando Rayo Yeah, we heard it today. And it came part of the package, I would say, is is the emotions and the history that comes with it and then the food. Verdad?

Corina Torralba Harrington Yes.

Mando Rayo And so like when you come here, we’re here at your your home. How does it make you feel to be back here?

Corina Torralba Harrington I love coming here. I come often. My dad lives here. So I, I like to come and be here with him for the celebration and just share food with everybody. You know, a lot of family come and it’s like a family reunion because we don’t have family reunion. So, you know, this is kind of like a family reunion and it makes my dad happy, you know, and me to see him happy and enjoying family and food. And I’m kind of the one that has to take care of everything and do everything. So I know he depends on me, but I don’t I don’t mind it, You know, I could be a little bit overwhelming, but I have my cousin that helps me and my friends come. They helped me out, too.

Mando Rayo And now we’re friends. How about that?

Women at festival Yeah. [both laugh]

Mando Rayo Well, you know, it’s funny because we said I was talking to Windy in Brackettville and I was telling her, Wow, it’s like everybody’s here is related, or they’re all family. And, you know, people use that phrase, but literally, you all are related and you are family.

Corina Torralba Harrington We are, yes, we are. I always being that I come here a lot and go to Brackettville a lot, the people are the same like we’re in two different places, but the people are the same. Like we have the same attitude. We have a lot of the same ways, the good and the bad. And I’m just like, It’s so weird because we’re in two different areas, but we’re so much alike.

Mando Rayo Yeah, yeah. And I love this idea where, you know, it’s not only Brackettville, but San Antonio is a big…and then throughout Texas, you know, people come down for Juneteenth and then they come down for diecenueve here in Nacimiento, I saw people at La Nogalera, the park where where everybody was eating and celebrating. I mean, I heard English and I heard Spanish. Usually when you go into like a deeper parts of Mexico, it’s all Spanish, obviously. Right? You see people that you think are from the region or from here, but people are here from San Antonio. And it’s cool to see that the with the way the food is cooked and some of those traditions are still here. Do you see that as well as when you come back?

Corina Torralba Harrington I see that, yes. But more like on a personal level, let’s say I go to a family member’s house and they they’re cooking for. I always tell my mom, oh, my God, women that cook so good. But also I know that men cook really good, too. My cousins, they are know how to cook. You know, I just enjoy the food when I go to people’s homes here.

Mando Rayo Yeah, yeah, I know. I love it. And obviously coming here and tasting the carnitas today that was, that was like it’s, it’s this balance I would say, or this mix that I tasted today. There’s Mexicano foods like carnitas and chicharrónes that I’m very familiar with to the to new flavors but we’re also kind of familiar: the sofkee, you know, and for me it kind of reminds me of my grandmother’s arroz con leche. They kind of has that similarity of taste and and it just feels good to eat it.

Corina Torralba Harrington Yes. The sofkee, like I said before, it brings me back memories of when I was little and I lived here. I don’t eat it a lot. I didn’t grow up with any of my Black Seminole grandmas and my grandmas were Mexican, but I did eat it at relative’s homes, but they were related to my grandfather because both of them were Black Seminoles. So I’m just going to their homes and having it there. But yes, I really love it.

Mando Rayo Yeah. Yeah. Well, in the you know, after all day of eating, I’m ready to work this out. And you know how I do it? With a baile. So you’re going to join us for some cumbias tonight?

Corina Torralba Harrington Yes, I sure will.

Mando Rayo All right, let’s do it. And I think that’s a great way to end the celebration. How about that?

Corina Torralba Harrington Yes.

Mando Rayo Well, Corina, thank you so much. Thank you so much for inviting us to come here. It’s a real honor to getting to know you and your family and your community. And I hope that we can come back and and celebrate even more.

Corina Torralba Harrington You are welcome. I thank you for making your way here and experiencing our Juneteenth here and our people and our food. And you’re welcome any time.

Mando Rayo Because of the continuing migration, sometimes we lose some food traditions, like a lot of the Native Indigenous foods that got lost along the way. Texas foods took over, Mexican foods took over, but Black Seminoles are holding on to something through Juneteenth or el diecenueve, whomever they’ve been able to hold on. And while a lot of people who aren’t quite sure what they’re celebrating, like when you’re a kid and you’re celebrating dieceseis or even Christmas or a Quinceañera and yet you don’t know the roots of it, it’s just something you do. But as people get older, they’re learning about themselves, their identities as Black Mexicans, and what that means for them, whether it’s an annual pilgrimage for Juneteenth that is represented in Texas, in West Texas, and down into Brackettville and all the way down to Coahuila, Mexico in Nacimiento and honoring those food traditions in a once a year type of celebration or bringing it back and actually reinventing it and bringing it back home for them. I think it’s super important that we honor these traditions and learn more about these stories and learn about some of our history. Whether you identify as Black, as Mexican, or even a Black Seminole. I feel very honored and humbled to take part in this celebration in both Mexico and Texas. And, you know, for me, this story is one that I was curious about. I knew about it. There’s been some stories out there. But, you know, tracing those foodways, I knew that was something that I really wanted to to uncover. And I’m hoping, you know, through these stories, you’re able to learn a little bit more about some some of those food traditions with not only Black Seminoles, but African American and that Mexican heritage. This has been a two part series on Black Mexicans on Tacos of Texas. Special thanks to this episode’s guests, Corina Torralba Harrington of the Seminole Indian Scout Cemetery Association, as well as Juan Manuel Torralba Hernandez and Laura Herrera, owner of the restaurant Maná de Cielito, Dina Redondo Rodriguez, Ashley Rodriguez and the rest of the Nacimiento community. This has been the Tacos of Texas podcast, developed and produced by Identity Productions. If you enjoyed today’s episode and are craving more taco content, go to our website at www dot identity dot productions or follow us on Instagram, TikTok. Facebook and YouTube at Identity Productions and United Tacos of America. This is your host Mando El Mestizo Rayo. Vamos a los tacos.

Outro The Tacos of Texas podcast is presented by Identity Productions in partnership with KUT and KUTX Studios. Our host and producer is Mando Rayo. Our audio is mixed by Nicholas Worthen and Ever Calderon. Our story producer is me, Sharon Arteaga, and our creative producer is Dennis Burnett. Music was created by Peligrosa in Austin, Texas, and King Benny Productions, located in the Quinto barrio of Houston.

This transcript was transcribed by AI, and lightly edited by a human. Accuracy may vary. This text may be revised in the future.


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