Cultural models of food in cuban miami: Roots, Yucas, and Moros

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Roots, Yucas, and Moros are all foods that Cubans commonly eat, and these foods are also are imbued with symbolic meaning. Roots are one of the few vegetables present in the typical Cuban diet. And roots represent the powerful first generation Cubans who arrived in the 1960s after Castro first came into power. Cuban Americans say they have blossomed in the US but that their roots are still in Cuba. The Cuban version of Yuppy is a Yuca, a young upwardly-mobile Cuban American, and these are the children of the wealthy exiles. Moros is a shortened form of "moros y christianos" (which literally means "Moores and Christians"), and is the name of the Cuban staple of black beans and white rice. The intermingling of European and African traditions are appreciated in Cuban culture, however there is also a tremendous degree of racism in Miami. The powerful and wealthy exiles are mainly light-skinned. Newer arrivals are more ethnically mixed, they come from a wider variety of socioeconomic backgrounds, and have lived perhaps their entire lives under communist rule. The purpose of this research is to examine Miami Cubans' cultural knowledge about food, aiming to identify cultural factors that contribute to variation in this knowledge. There is increasing heterogeneity within the Miami Cuban enclave in terms of social class, ethnicity, and political values, and this research strives to identify how polarizing beliefs about US-Cuba politics may be manifested in the way people talk about and think of food. It explores how diverse foodway experiences may spawn differential knowledge structures within the domain of food. Finally, it explores how cultural knowledge constructs may influence food intake and body size. It was predicted that: 1. More than one model in the cultural domain of food and foodways will exist among the diverse groups of Miami Cubans. 2a. Degree of experience with alternative foodways will be associated with cultural knowledge in the model of food, and 2b. Difference in knowledge will be specifically reflected in the health belief dimension of the food model. 3. Political values will contribute to the distribution of cultural knowledge about food. 4. Degree of alternative foodway experience will have a positive relationship with fruit and vegetable intake. 5. Knowledge variation in the domain of food will have a positive relationship with BMI. Four Cuban neighborhoods were selected for sampling which represent diverse socioeconomic statuses and immigration waves: Little Havana, Hialeah, Kendall and Coral Gables. Research took place from September 2009 to March 2011. One hundred forty-three Miami Cubans were interviewed using structured and semi-structured techniques as well as participant observation in the Cuban communities. Results indicate that Cubans in Miami highly share knowledge in the domain of food. However, variation does exist and appears along the dimension of healthfulness of food. Experience in diverse foodways appears to influence food knowledge.

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Cultural anthropology