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How does the local Latino community celebrate Thanksgiving?

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Pernil, turkey, guacamole, and stuffing.

Those are some of the dishes that will be served in local Latino households this Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is celebrated each year on the fourth Thursday of November. According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, “Americans generally believe that their Thanksgiving is modeled on a 1621 harvest feast shared by the English colonists (Pilgrims) of Plymouth and the Wampanoag people.” The celebration was announced as a national holiday in 1863.

For Evelyn Robles-Rivas, one of the many Puerto Rican natives who live in Meriden, Thanksgiving represents a traditional holiday since it is also celebrated in Puerto Rico because of the U.S. influence over the archipielago.

The twist is that the territory celebrates with its own traditional dishes.

In Puerto Rico, “we would have a nice dinner with pernil, arroz con gandules, potato salad and invite the family,” said Robles-Rivas, who is also the supervisor of language and community partnerships for Meriden Public Schools. 

After more than 30 years living on the mainland, Robles-Rivas celebrates the holiday with her husband and daughters incorporating some of the traditional dishes in the U.S. while keeping some iconic Puerto Rican dishes on the menu.

“I will have my arroz con gandules, potato salad, sweet potato, and either chicken or turkey for dinner,” she said. “It’s not a Puerto Rican Thanksgiving without the potato salad.” 

Evangeline Mendoza-Bourgeois, music director at the Spanish Community of Wallingford’s School of Music, has a Thanksgiving table that includes numerous cultures.

The music instructor grew up celebrating Thanksgiving in a predominantly Mexican community in Arizona.

“Growing up, our main dish was turkey and mole,” she said. “We also had rice, beans, and potatoes.”

As she got older, Mendoza-Bourgeois said Mexican dishes slowly went away during Thanksgiving. Her family had started to adapt to U.S. traditions. 

Now, with her husband being French Canadian the couple combines all three of the cultures into the feast. There is always French Canadian apple pie at the table.

“We usually celebrate with my husband’s family in New Canaan and I always bring guacamole and a spicy chili sauce with jalapenos, tomatillos, and habanero peppers,” she said. In addition, she also prepares sweet potato pie for the family. 

“My husband and his brother always sing “O Canada” during the celebration,” she laughed. “They haven’t learned the national anthem of Mexico but we’re working on it.”

But Fabiola Giguere, owner of Achiq Designs in Cheshire and a Wallingford resident, celebrates the holiday the traditional American way. 

“With having kids who were born here in the United States, I had no choice but to celebrate the traditional way because I wanted them to have that experience,” she said. 

Giguere never celebrated the holiday in Peru, so when she moved to the US in 1981, she started celebrating.

“My husband is from Connecticut so that’s partly why we do it the traditional way, but for Christmas that’s when I bring out my paneton, potato salad, and hot chocolate,” she said. 

“Thanksgiving is just all about giving thanks and I love having this experience with my kids and family,” she added.  

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