76 percent of Latinos often celebrate U.S. holidays, and 86 percent of Latinos feel it is natural to live and act in ways that are typical of U.S. American culture. (Photo Credit: Emara Saez/Achona Online/Piktochart)
76 percent of Latinos often celebrate U.S. holidays, and 86 percent of Latinos feel it is natural to live and act in ways that are typical of U.S. American culture.

Photo Credit: Emara Saez/Achona Online/Piktochart

How Hispanics Celebrate Thanksgiving

November 22, 2019

When we think of Thanksgiving, we often picture mashed potatoes, turkey, cranberry sauce, and an array of different traditionally American foods. However, for Hispanic-Americans celebrating Thanksgiving, their feast and celebration can look a little different. Thanksgiving is sometimes known as “Dia de Accion de Gracia” or “Dia de Dar Gracias,” but the Thanksgiving name and festivities for Hispanics are often a customized blend of Hispanic and American traditions.

While Thanksgiving is not celebrated in Latin America, many Hispanics in the U.S. feel a special connection to the holiday and the day of gratitude. Apart from the traditional Thanksgiving spread, Hispanics usually include traditional dishes from their native cultures into the holiday. Typically, Hispanics will tailor their Thanksgiving meals to meet the duality of their culture in the U.S. while paying tribute to their roots.

“We do a turkey but its seasoned like lechon, so we call it pavo-chon. That’s kind of our little take on [Thanksgiving]. I would say that the seasoning is the only thing that’s different for us. We always have black beans and rice, too,” said High School World Language Department Chair Micky Stagg.

Different Hispanic cultures typically include specific dishes at their Thanksgiving feast. For example, Cubans often have platanitos maduros, black beans, and yucca dishes present at their tables. Argentinians usually have Milanesa, an array of breaded meats, on their Thanksgiving tables. Mofongo is a popular Thanksgiving dish for Puerto Ricans. For Venezuelans, ensalada de gallina, a type of chicken salad, is a must-have at a Thanksgiving feast. Dominicans usually substitute the traditional American desserts, like pies, for bizcocho. Similarly, Colombians replace traditional American desserts with another desert called arroz con coco.

Along with specific dishes like the ones listed above, there are a few general trends that most Hispanic Americans adhere to, regardless of cultural distinctions. For example, most Hispanics stuff their turkey with more protein instead of traditional stuffing. The additional protein can be any type of meat, but some of the common ones are chorizo, bits of pork, bacon, or ground beef. For Hispanics, rice is a staple dish at any feast. It can come in many forms like yellow rice, white rice, arroz con gandules, and even as a dessert in the form of arroz con leche. For Hispanic Thanksgivings, music and dance typically replace football and parades as the main forms of entertainment.

“The only similarity we have [with traditional Thanksgiving] is the turkey since that’s the main staple. Instead of mashed potatoes, we have rice, beans, and yucca. I’ve never had stuffing, and we don’t have mac and cheese. The sides and main dishes are all different,” said Sarah Torres (‘20).

Overall, Hispanic Thanksgiving festivities are not that different from traditional American festivities. Hispanic Thanksgivings simply include a blending of Hispanic and American traditions, which is reflected in the food and festivities of Hispanic Americans in the U.S.

“When I’m with my Cuban family, we eat pork instead of turkey. We have beans and rice, and it tastes really good. It’s a cool blending of American and Hispanic traditions. When I’m with my family, we obviously still feel we are Americans, yet we are able to bring our culture here and celebrate it together,” said Isabella Ruano (’21).

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