We talked about Christmas with Democratic politician Crisanta Durán. This young politician, born and raised in Colorado, comes from a Hispanic family settled in Pueblo, Colorado for at least six generations. Our other two interviewees, Sandra Morales and Raimunda Carrión, grew up in Michoacán and Durango, respectively. They told us how they celebrate Christmas now that they live in the U.S. And they cooked traditional holiday food from the regions they come from.
During this Christmas holidays, Crisanta Durán is getting ready to take charge of her new role as Speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives. She is the first Hispanic woman who holds that job. “I am honored and humbled that my colleagues have chosen my to serve as the next speaker of the house,” she said. Crisanta has had a remarkable political career. At 36 years of age, she has already performed as House Majority Leader and Leader of the Joint Budget Committee.
Crisanta plans to spend Christmas at her home in northwest Denver. She will receive both sides of her family, who will visit from Pueblo. “Christmas is a time to spend with family and friends. I really focus on what matters most, which is the relationship that you have with people. It is something so important to me,” she said, and added, “It is also a time to make bring happiness to the younger folks in the family.” Crisanta is excited to spend time with her two nephews, Roman and Shawn, sons of her younger sister.
Talking about Christmas brings Crisanta good childhood memories. “My Aunty Sandy comes to my mind. She gave me a jewel when I was an elementary student. That gift had a great impact on me and I have always cherished that piece of jewelry that she gave me.” Crisanta told us that her Aunt Sandy, had cancer and died shortly afterwards, without having reached the age of forty. “She had an incredible smile and gave us love on our visit to Pueblo during Christmas,” she said.
Celebrations in Pueblo
Crisanta also remembers fondly the family get togethers that she spent in Pueblo. “We traveled there every Christmas and met with our grandparents, uncles and cousins. We spent Christmas Eve with my mother’s family and Christmas Day with my father’s side of the family. There were very big family gatherings. we typically played cards and different games. But there was also music. I liked to listen to and sing ‘Merry Christmas’,” she said.
She remembers fondly her two grandmothers, Eva and Alice, preparing great dishes. “They are great cooks… but everybody participates and gives a hand. They cooked turkey, ham, steak. And our dinner included elk, hunted by some relatives,” she explains. Crisanta associates the charm and flavor or Christmas to that of tamales and bizcochitos. These two dishes, tamales and bizcochitos, honor recipes that have been passed down from generation to generation in her family.
Sandra and Raimunda: The immigrant experience
Unlike Crisanta, who was born and raised in Colorado, our two other interviewees, Sandra Morales and Raimunda Carrión, migrated from Mexico. Sandra explained that she has embraced many of the American traditions in her celebrations. “My children love to eat smoked ham decorated with pineapple and cloves for our Christmas dinner. I also make mashed potatoes. When I make turkey, I season it with guajillo chilies. In other words, I make an American dish with Mexican flavor,” she explained.
Sandra came to the States from Michoacán in 1993. She started a family in Colorado more than 20 years ago. Raimunda also came to the U.S. twenty years ago. She comes from Northern Mexico; she was born and raised in Durango, Mexico. “In my house, we celebrate Christmas Eve with a special dinner. Then, the next day, we invite our friends to eat ‘recalentado’, or the leftovers from the night before,” she said. “After we migrated, we adopted as our family the friends we have me there, and we learned to also celebrate December 25th, or Christmas Day, not only Christmas Eve,” she explained.
Sandra and Raimunda have adapted to the way of celebrating Christmas in this country. But they also keep alive their Mexican culinary arts; they are both members of the culinary incubator COMAL in Denver. “We are committed to keep the traditional recipes from our place of origin,” explained Sandra. They cooked for us the traditional dishes from the Christmas menu in Michoacán as well as in Durango.
“Chicken or turkey pozole is a very common dish for Christmas Eve dinner in Mexico. In Michoacán, we prepare it with purple corn and guajillo chilies. That chili gives it the red color. Other people in my region prefer to eat menudo for Christmas, either of these soups are very traditional for the holidays,” explained Sandra. Meanwhile, Raimunda said that in Durango, tamales are “a must” during holiday celebrations. “They can be made with pork, chicken, or ‘rajas con queso’ (which includes strips of Anaheim or poblano peppers and white melting cheese). Sweet or dessert tamales can’t be missed either.”
Sandra indicates that Christmas celebration is not complete without buñuelos, atole and punch. “Buñuelos can be eaten any time of the day. They are a dessert item, but also an appetizer. They must be crunchy and served with honey,” she said. This lady from Michoacán explained that a punch served with fruits is also part of Christmas dinner. “I prepare it with guava, Jamaica, tamarind and apple.” Raimunda, on the other hand, indicted that they don’t drink champurrado in Durango, but they drink atole, which is a drink made with wheat. “We drink it along with our dinner,” she explained.