Interview no. 1677


Meredith E. Abarca


El Paso Food Voices


Media is loading

Summary of Interview

Yolanda Chávez Leyva, Professor of Public History at the University of Texas at ElPaso, illustrates the many ways in which food represents a form of an “intimate history,” one in which we are continuously changing the course for such history. She speaks of her ongoing changing relationship with food. Raised by a mother who embraced the modernizing ways the food industry introduced in the early 1950s, she grew up eating American, Mexican, and Southern meals made mostly with processed foods. Once living on her own and embarking in a career as a historian who focuses on Mexican-American, Mexican indigenous culture, and Borderlands History, she came to understand the nutritional, historical and cultural value of indigenous ancestral foods from Mesoamerica and both the Chihuahua and Sonora desert. She has become acquainted with and teaches her students about the diet of the “siete guerreros” (seven warriors): corn, squash, beans, chile, maguey, amaranth, and nopales (cactus); she teaches them how food is both a tool for conquest and for resistance. She teaches how cooking tools are sites of memories. When cooking with her grandchildren, she teaches them with “attention and intention” that certain foods help reclaim ancestral diets. She teaches these lessons by having them smell, taste, hear, and feel the food while cooking.

Date of Interview


Length of Interview

51:01 minutes

Tape Number

No. 1677

Interview Number

No. 1677

Terms of Use



For information on obtaining a transcript of this interview, please contact The Institute for Oral History

1677 Leyva, Yolanda.summary.pdf (87 kB)
Interview Coversheet

This document is currently not available here.