Taking a Bite of Converso History Through Tacos

This piece was first published on The Jew and the the Carrot blog at the Forward.

FOOD_TACO_PLATTER_MG_1404

Since 2005, Texas-born conceptual artist and former Heeb photo editor, Peter Svarzbein has been interviewing and photographing Latino families in the American Southwest who are returning to Judaism — believing their ancestors were Conversos, forced converts to Catholicism during the Spanish Inquisition.

Svarzbein, 33, was looking for a way for more people to feast their eyes on these portraits of Crypto-Jews and to chew on the historic circumstances that connect Latinos and Jewish traditions. That’s when he came up with the idea for a food truck — a kosher taco truck, to be exact.

With the support of various organizations in his native El Paso, including the Svarzbein launched Conversos y Tacos Kosher Gourmet Trucks, an innovative and interactive art installation than ran for a week in the city in far West Texas in late July.

Over the week, the truck made six stops at various community and food events around El Paso (where Szarzbein grew up in a culturally Jewish family with a Hispanic-Ashkenazi background), serving fusion taco plates melding Jewish and Mexican cuisine. The food reflected the questions Svarzbein wants to challenge people with, like: How can a person be both Jewish and Latino? How can culture, religion and identity fuse together over, or through, the U.S.-Mexico border?

Click here to read more.

© 2013 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.

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