Haitian Freedom Soup


For over one hundred years, the French controlled Haiti, taking advantage of the many natural resources and growing conditions the land had to offer. In order to farm massive amounts of sugar, coffee, cotton and indigo on their plantations, the French imported nearly one million slaves from Africa. Today a major percentage of Haiti’s population traces their ancestry to the African slaves.

The French plantation owners treated the slaves terribly, offering them only the minimum of what they needed to survive. While the slaves dined on a thin bread soup, the plantation owners enjoyed a rich and hearty pumpkin soup. In fact, the slaves were forbidden to eat the soup because it was considered too fancy for the simple people.

After more than one hundred years, the people of Haiti were fed up with the French. They began fighting back in 1791 and after a long battle won their independence! What was one of the first things they did following their victory? They celebrated by eating pumpkin soup! To this day, pumpkin soup is served in millions of homes every year on January 1 as a reminder of Haitian independence.


  • 2 pounds fresh pumpkin (2 cups mashed)
  • 10 cups water, plus more if needed
  • 1 13.5-ounce can of unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 jalapeño or serrano pepper
  • 10 whole cloves
  • 4 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1/2 small head green cabbage, cored and chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1 lime
  • 1/4 pound macaroni
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. In a large pot, add the pumpkin and water, stirring until it reaches an even consistency.
  2. Press cloves halfway into the flesh of the pepper, then add to pumpkin mixture.
  3. Add carrots, turnips, cabbage, nutmeg, lime juice, salt and pepper. Cover and bring to a boil.
  4. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in macaroni, parsley and coconut milk, cover again and simmer gently until pasta is tender and soup is thickened, about 10 minutes more. Add more water to thin the soup if you find it too thick.
  5. Be creative with your presentation. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of crushed pistachios or whatever else you like.
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Day of the Dead Hollywood Forever 2009

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Kumeyaay Native Population and Dia de los Muertos

I am currently preparing for a trip to San Jose de la Pazza in Baja for Dia de los Muertos. The people of this village belong to the Native Population, the Kumeyaay/Kumiai, whose tribe was separated when the border was established between Mexico and the US. Nearly half of the population extends into Mexico going as far south as Ensenada.

It is possible to research the Kumeyaay people extensively at a website called www.Kumeyaay.info. There you will find a wealth of photos, archived documents, historical clippings, and information about the tribe today in both the United States and Mexico.

The Kumeyaay are well-known for their tightly coiled basketweaving techniques the indigenous California peoples have used for thousands of years for storage, winnowing, cooking, and serving food.

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Dia de los Muertos en Estados Unidos

hollywood_foreverMy photo documentary work for the last 5 years has been centered around Semana Santa in Guatemala, and Dia de los Muertos in Mexico. Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a celebration dedicated to honoring those who have passed on. It is believed, once a year, the spirits of antepasados return for a special night of celebration. Those still living prepare special feasts, create altars which incorporate the 4 elements as well as items special to the departed, and clean and prepare the cemeteries for their loved one’s return.

The sights and sounds of Dia de los Muertos are like none other experienced in the United States. Plumes of copal incense smoke fill the air, the smells of mole, hot chocolate, tomales, and more linger in the streets as families spend hours and hours preparing for this special observance. Papel Picado (Special cut paper banners) twist and turn in a parade of multi-colored extravagance, and candles light the way so the souls of those returning might find their way home.

Having spent Dia de los Muertos in different parts of Mexico over the past 5 years, I wanted to experience how the Hispanic populations in the United States celebrate Day of the Dead. For the past 10 years, Tyler Cassidy, the owner of Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles, Ca, has presented LA Day of the Dead Festival. It is strangely reminiscent of the Oaxacan experience with ghosts and ghouls walking the streets of the cemetery.

While the gradual integration of Halloween and Dia de los Muertos is apparent, the traditional aspects are profound. Each year 50 plus altars are created, colorful and grand; each full of symbolism and personal significance. Each of the altars represent an individual, group of family members, or political event that has greatly affected the population. A lot of thought and energy is placed into the creation of these altars, and the work pays off. The experience is authentic, and the greatest benefit is that Dia de los Muertos is shared with the non-Hispanic population as well – imparting the importance of this ancient ceremony with an unfamiliar audience.

For more information about the LA Day of the Dead Festival, Click Here.

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Returning to Portland After 4 Months in Guatemala


After four months in Guatemala I am returning to Portland. The time I have spent in Guatemala interviewing, meeting new friends, and continued Spanish studies has been amazing.

My continued work with Fredy Perez Hernandez of San Juan La Laguna will include further development of our website and oral history project. For more information about our Mayan Oral History project, Misterios: La Casa de la Mente, check out this website.

(The photo I have posted was taken in the back of a pickup as we were traveling from the San Pablo Fiesta, back to San Pedro. Appearing in the photo with me is Concepcion Gonzalez, a Spanish Language instructor at Casa Rosario in San Pedro)

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The Chicken Sacrifice

blog3.jpg A friend of mine was encountering some personal issues and sought the help of a local Mayan Shaman to help rid his surrounding environment of the negative energy. The ceremony the Shaman performed involved the sacrifice of a chicken.

Shamanic ceremonies in Mayan Tradition range from blessing houses, to treating illnesses and calling souls, to appeasing angry spirchickens are sacrificed because their souls have wings and can therefore fly and search for and awaken the soul. Chicken sacrifice is very common.

Several days after this ceremony, I experienced a ceremony with the same Shaman, who asked for blessing and health as I prepared to return to the United States. It was a very colorful ceremony including chanting, many colorful candles, colored sugars each representing a specific request, as well as alcohol.

One of the sights and smells that is so prevalent in Mexico and Latin America is that of Copal Incense. I love the smell, and the white smoke that drifts through the landscape during important rituals and ceremonies.Copal incense is a golden, black, or white resin whose sacred smoke carries messages to the spirit world. The spirit of this plant and its medicine allows us to see life more clearly and inspires divine insights. 



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La Primera Dama de Guatemala

3blog.jpgThis month I had a great opportunity to listen to a speech by Senora Colom, the First Lady of Guatemala. She visited San Juan la Laguna for the grand opening of a community center and park. She and her husband are very busy making public appearances the last several months due to the infancy of Senor Colon’s presidency. He took office in January of this year.


I have a slide show presentation of the photos I took during her speech, and time in San Juan. Please view my Youtube.com page to check it out.

The community center, park, and new mercado in San Juan are really an amazing accomplishment for such a small community. The mercado, especially, was greatly needed by the people because they were doing all of their vending in the street. The mercado is really above and beyond what anyone would expect for such a remote location.

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