November 22nd, 2012
04:00 PM ET
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Food says so much about where you’ve come from, where you’ve decided to go, and the lessons you’ve learned. It’s geography, politics, tradition, belief and so much more and we invite you to dig in and discover the rich, ever-evolving taste of America. Catch up on past coverage.

In Spanish, it’s known as “Feliz Dia de Accion de Gracias” or el “Dia de Las Gracias.” Although it’s not a holiday celebrated in Latin America, Thanksgiving has resonated with Hispanics in the United States because of two vital components in Latino culture: family and food.

Latino households across the country will serve Hispanic dishes alongside Thanksgiving classics like mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce, blending their own culture into the “traditional” American holiday.

“Last year, I spent it at my sister’s house and we had ham, pasteles, yam, stuffing and Mexican rice alongside the turkey,” says Baltimore, Maryland resident Elianne Ramos. She works as the Vice-Chair of Marketing and PR for Latinos in Social Media .

Of course, not every Latino household is the same.

Mangu and tostones (mashed and flattened, fried plantains) will surely grace the dining tables of Dominican households. Rich flans and homemade croquetas are likely to be a part of any Cuban family’s Thanksgiving. Peruvians love to find any reason to add ceviche or meat-filled empanadas to the menu. And, depending on the country of origin, a specialty rice dish - a staple in almost every Hispanic home - will always be on the dining table.

“It’s all about food, family and fiesta. We eat, drink, play bachata, merengue and dance,” said Ramos, “We live in different states, so Thanksgiving is one of the few times a year when the whole gang gets together. It's great.”

As the population of Latinos continues to grow so does the exchange of food and culture at the dinner table, especially during the holidays.

Chef Jezabel Careaga, owner of Gavin’s Cafe - an Argentinean restaurant in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - has seen her non-Hispanic customers embrace Latino food over the last year. Her business has never been better.

“About 75% of my customers are non-Latino and I was surprised by that,” said Careaga. “The neighborhood really loves the homemade empanadas and alfajores (dulce de leche-filled cookies). My customers ordered over 12 dozen for Thanksgiving to bring to hostesses as appetizers.”

Philadelphia’s Latino population, although growing, is still only at 7.9%, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.

Last year, Careaga had to invest many long days into promoting her empanadas recipe. This year, business has been going so well, she hasn’t had time. She bakes her empanadas with multiple fillings, but her ground beef with boiled eggs, seasoned with chilli powder and paprika (don’t forget the raisins!) have become a local favorite in the Fitler Square neighborhood.

“In my familia we have always incorporated Colombian holiday dishes into the traditional thanksgiving feast,” said Claudia Castillo, a Brooklyn-based food blogger. “The first turkey I ever had in this country was stuffed with ground pork, chicken, the turkey meat and vegetables.”

The Anthon family of Wellington, Florida were invited for Thanksgiving dinner by their Caucasian neighbors. They were asked to bring Maria’s famous Argentinean empanadas, along with her homemade salsa.

Angel Canales, from Puerto Rico, spent his Thanksgiving last year in West New York, New Jersey. There, he and his Cuban and Ecuadorian friends were surrounded by turkey and signature Cuban dishes like yuca and congri, a dish of rice and beans.

The Diaz-Garcia Family of New Jersey will be making empanadas, tres leches cake, lasagna, mac 'n' cheese and rice for Thanksgiving. “We save the more traditional Salvadoran foods for Christmas,” said Mary Diaz.

A little extra flavor is what truly makes it a holiday to be thankful for.

What will you be adding to your Thanksgiving spread that incorporates your Hispanic culture? Let us know!

soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. Patricia Rivera

    I'm pretty sure that the food in Slide #1 are not "tamales" but "pasteles". And "arroz con gandules" is "rice with pigeon peas" . Rice and Beans is a different thing altogether.

    C'mon CNN!! if you are gonna do a piece on Hispanic foods, at least get the food names right!!!

    November 26, 2012 at 11:23 pm |
  2. Larita

    my Cuban family's way of celebrating:
    -we say 'Api Sangueeveen'
    -croquetas & pastelitos all morning
    -Turkey marinated with naranja agria (sour orange) & mojo (lots of garlic & lime)
    -pernil (roast pork)
    -yuca, plantains, white rice & beans
    -flan for dessert (no one knows what to think of pumpkin pie!)
    -LOTS of cuban coffee to get through the turkey coma

    November 26, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
  3. raquel

    The name: El Dia de las Gracias is not the appropriate translation. It is better to say: Dia de Accion de Gracias.

    November 25, 2012 at 6:53 pm |
    • Google Translator


      November 25, 2012 at 7:04 pm |
  4. Lori

    Mi esposo es Peruano but his family has been here since the 70's. My mother-in-law makes turkey, lasagne, pumpkin and apple pies, and, this year, pasta salad in place of stuffing. I make sweet potato casserole and ,this year, apple crumble. Our Girl Scout Troop is largely Latina, and the leader's sister sends ambrosia salad for the troop's Thanksgiving, plus we had turkey, fruit salad, assorted bakery cookies, and my daughter and I made apple crumble and pumpkin phyllo cups.

    November 25, 2012 at 7:46 am |
  5. Carlos

    Happy San Guivin, everyone!

    November 22, 2012 at 5:31 pm |
  6. rubinski

    Thanksgiving... celebrating when the gringos stole the land from the Indians..Celebrando cuando los gringos le robarron la tiera a los indianos....


    November 22, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
    • VladT

      Actually, know it isn't, but thanks for your America hating-political correctness spin on a holiday usually meant for giving thanks for family.

      Adios, amigo

      November 23, 2012 at 7:50 am |
      • VladT

        Wow...dang homonym typo. "Know" changed to "no."

        November 23, 2012 at 7:50 am |
    • Lori

      No, that's Columbus Day, but thanks for playing. You know where the borders are if you want to leave.

      November 25, 2012 at 7:49 am |
  7. Javier

    I understood that the holiday is known as dia de dar gracias. That is a day to give thanks.

    November 22, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
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