Accepted paper:

Yucatecan gastronomy and the paradoxes of patrimony


Steffan Igor Ayora Diaz (Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán)

Paper short abstract:

The notion of "cultural patrimony" precariously sits between the notion of a collective good and its understanding as a tourism commodity. This paper explores the paradoxes faced by Yucatacan gastronomy as entrepreneurs and politicians negotiate the meanings of the term.

Paper long abstract:

Mexico in general, and the state of Yucatan in particular, are dependent on the development of tourism attractions and services. In this context, in 2010, Mexican gastronomy was declared humanity's heritage. However, Mexico is a country characterized by a diversity of culinary 'traditions', and Yucatan's gastronomy developed within the Caribbean framework rather than as a variation of Mexican cuisine. In fact, as I have argued, Yucatecan gastronomy was developed mostly since the second half of the twentieth century in opposition to Mexican cuisine. In 2013, the Yucatan congress declared the state's gastronomy the cultural heritage of the people of Yucatan. This paper explores the negotiations among different social actors: restaurateurs and cookbook writers who have a vested interest in the reproduction of a gastronomy that privileges the crossing of different international culinary traditions spawning Yucatecan gastronomy as a distinguishable body of recipes, politicians who support this view, declaring, for example, Valladolid as the cradle of creole Yucatecan food, and politicians who subscribe the definition of Mexican gastronomy as patrimony and attempt to define and invent a gastronomy based on pre-Columbian ingredients. As I will show, this has led to the explosion and fragmentation of recipes considered proper of Yucatan, but that introduce meaningful changes in the recipes. In consequence, I will argue, food entrepreneurs in the state have to deal with conflicting definitions of innovation and tradition variously encompassed by the definitions of patrimony.

panel P113
Local entrepreneurial responses to global forces: new and alternative enterprise re-configurations in times of crisis and economic hardship (EASA Network for Economic Anthropology)