Argentine Aborigines

(Photo by canosadaniel1)

Argentine cultural identity is a mix of many influences stemming from the encounter of local aborigines with Europeans since the Colonization of America, and after the many migratory currents that the country underwent.

In Buenos Aires, the presence of European influences is more than evident: French architecture, Italian and Spanish food, language and gesticulation, and so on. The indigenous influence in the capital however is less apparent, although in many other provinces local tribes are still a significant part of society.

The Argentine aboriginal map is divided into three main regions: the Andean Northwest, which at a time was an outpost of the Inca Empire and the indigenous culture still thrives today; the Northeast, where some tribes, like the Wichis still exist today, related to the Tupí and Guaraní peoples, and finally the Pampa and Patagonia regions, populated by mainly nomadic tribes that are mostly extinct.

Within each of these regions and large generalized groups of indigenes there are many tribes, each with their own cultural characteristics, many which make up a part of the local identity today. Mate drinking for example, is a ritual that comes from the Guaraní who planted the mate herb over the burial ground of their loved ones and then shared the beverage made from the leaves to keep the spirit of their people alive.

Humita: Traditional Flavors from the North West

(Photo by suzienewshoes)

One of the most typical Argentine foods, from the north of the country, is a corn dish called humita. This warming and satisfying dish dates back to pre-Hispanic times, and was an Incan staple, which is why it can be found with different variations along the continent.

In Argentina there are two ways of preparing this dish; one is a la olla (in a pot), and the other en chala (wrapped in corn husks). There is also a  popular variety of corn filled empanadas that are called empanadas de humita.

The recipe for humita is quite simple. It calls for a large amount of grated raw corn (approx. 1 dozen), 1 sautéed onion, 1 red bell pepper, paprika,  ½ cup of basil, ½ cup of lard, goat cheese (optional) and salt. Everything except the cheese is mixed together forming a paste, and then for the chala version two cornhusks are overlapped forming a diamond-like shape and in the center a few spoonfuls of the corn paste are placed along with a square of goat cheese. The husks are folded and tied with a small strip of the corn leaves.  Then the wrapped up humita is introduced into salted boiling water for approximately 45 minutes.  To cook a la olla, the mix, without cheese, must be cooked in a pot for approximately an hour. Many recipes include butternut squash for this version, and milk to make the stirring easier.