In an exciting development for the organization, CulinaryCorps will be expanding their trip footprint to Puerto Rico in 2010. With the help of four-time trip participant and San Juan native, Viviana Acosta-Padial, a trip will be launched from January 31 – February 7, 2010. For trip details, please click here.
The island nation of Puerto Rico has one of the most dynamic economies and cuisines in the Caribbean region. However, sustainable economic development remains a challenge for this United States Commonwealth. Currently, the average median household income is less than half of Mississippi, the poorest state in the USA, and a majority of Puerto Rican citizens live under the poverty line set by the American government. Puerto Rico receives some US federal aid but does not get equal coverage or qualify for most welfare programs. In 2007, the US halted its funding to clinics serving HIV/AIDS patients, a devastating blow for a country with over double the rate of AIDS than in America. However, Puerto Rico’s network of dynamic non-profits have helped reduce mortality, increase literacy, improve medical services, raise life expectancy and increase quality of life for all citizens including the domestically abused and those afflicted with long-term illness. CulinaryCorps is honored and privileged to help further the work of these admirable organizations.
Equally as important to the work that is keeping the country healthy is the cuisine that keeps the country happy. With roots in the cooking traditions and practices of Spain/Europe, the Amerindian Taínos (pre-Colombian indigenous inhabitants), and the African continent, the mingling of flavors and ingredients passed from generation to generation have resulted in an incredible food culture unique to the island. Puerto Ricans are fiercely proud of their cuisine but unfortunately, US influence and island industrialization have eroded the viability of agriculture, and Puerto Rico is now largely dependent on food imports. With this shift, practice and preservation of traditional cooking techniques, products and recipes is quickly fading. Indeed, as these native foodways are exchanged for convenience foods, instances of high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease have increased among the young. Fortunately, Puerto Rico is beginning to recognize this trend and are taking first steps to quell the backslide.
CulinaryCorps is excited to be a small part of this forward progress, and upon our return home, is keen to be voice boxes for both the plight and the progress of this culturally rich country.