Latin American Festival Preview: The Food

By Brianna Duggan, Cultural Events Coordinator

Yum. I’ll tell you what.

The first thing I’m going  to do when I get to the Latin American Festival this year is get me one of those tasty elotes.

You get what you want – but me? On mine I’ll put me some mayonnaise, some of that chili powder and the finishing touch — lime juice!

But that lime juice on it does more than improve the taste. For me, I put lime juice on my corn for aesthetic reasons. Basically, I don’t want to look like this man on the right.

I’m not making this up. This is serious stuff, ya’ll. Listen up:

This man has pellagra and the photo is from the early 1900s. At that time, the disease was raging across Europe, Africa and America. And don’t you think we in the Carolinas were above it. In fact, Pellagra had reached epidemic proportions in the American South. Things were so bad here that the country’s first Pellagra Hospital was built in Spartanburg of all places!

But in spite this epidemic across the world, it was as if the disease just hopped over Latin America.

Dun dun dun! (Insert spooky music)

But why?

Pellagra is caused by a deficiency of a vitamin called niacin.

Without enough of it, you turn into that man. With enough of it, you are as happy and productive as these people in Diego Rivera’s mural, Maize.

So it turns out Latin Americans were just like the people facing the pellagra epidemic — eating a corn based diet. But the main difference between the infected and the non-infected was simple:

Latinos added lime to their corn, the others didn’t.

Basically, lime is like magic for corn and makes it release that important vitamin, niacin. Without an alkaline like lime, corn’s nutrients stay closed off to our bodies. (American Indians added ash to their corn products, which served the same purpose.)

The colonists had overlooked this lime-y tradition, which they would have considered to be “primitive” compared to their European ways.  They suffered the unfortunate consequences as a result.

That’s a lesson, kids.

Eat an elote!


The Latin American Festival is on Sunday, October 14, 2012 from 12-8pm, rain or shine, at Symphony Park at South Park Mall. Tickets are $5.


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