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How two local artists bring back their indigenous ancestors with food

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How two local artists bring back their indigenous ancestors with food

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Grand Rapids chef Oscar Moreno and local artist Arturo Morales Romero are on a mission to decolonize the history of Mexican people through food and art.

Moreno is the mastermind chef behind the restaurant known as MeXo GR. A name he says is meant to represent the history of his ancestors. The Me represents the term “Mesoamerica” denoting the parts of Mexico and Central America occupied by the indigenous people before the area was colonized by the Spanish and Xo is mean to represent modern day Mexico.

“It’s a fusion between the old and the new—before and after the Spanish colonized the country of Mexico,” says Moreno.

While Morales’ expertise isn’t food; knowing his history and culture has always been a driving force for him. Since a child, he has always wanted to show his culture through his art.

“My grandfather always said, “If you forget your culture, you will become a weak link,” explains Morales.

It is in this passion to remember their history and culture that the two creators decided to craft a series of dinners highlighting the history and cultures of indigenous folk from Mexico. The pair call the series the “Pre-Hispanic Chef Dinner Series.”

Every first Friday of every month, the two host a five-course menu dinner highlighting a different indigenous group of Mexico. While Moreno focuses on crafting the unique menu, Morales focuses on crafting an art piece that represents the history of that community.

“Through the food I make, I want people to understand that every indigenous culture of Mexico is unique, and I want to show the people in this community who our people are. I want to tell our history without the lens of the Spanish who colonized us,” explains Moreno.

In the most recent dinner series, Moreno created a menu around the culture of Purepecha, a group of indigenous people from the northwest region of Michoacán, Mexico.

“The people of Purepecha are the ones responsible for el mole (thick savory sauce). For the courses I made different kinds of mole made of vegetables without any animal products,” says Morales.

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While those in attendance ate, Morales dedicated the time to paint a depiction of Curicaveri or Sun god with the moles prepared by Moreno.

“When the Spanish arrived in Mexico, they tried hard to oppress us because they realized how intelligent we were. So now our duty is to remember our history and not allow others to dictate who they think we are. We have our own identity and our identity goes back to more than 3000 years,” shares Morales.

By Michelle Jokisch

Haz clic para leer en Español: Dos artistas locales celebran sus ancestros indígenas con recetas de comida

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