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Food for the Soul: Holy Week & Lent in Latin America edit

Dsc04382 In Panama and the rest of Latin America, Holy Week and Lent are among the most important dates on the calendar. Among the traditions of these dates is to prepare recipes where the main part of it is fish or seafood. Having this in consideration, and knowing the importance of the lent for many of you, we would like to share the following recipes from our collection.

My most vivid and fondest memories deal with growing up in a Latin American country. Sharing glimpses of those experiences could be a wonderful way to draw our friends and readers into a deeper understanding of Latin American culture.

7 Semana Santa (Holy Week), along with other traditional festivities in this part of the hemisphere, combines the religious beliefs of the observers with music, costumes, food, or other cultural elements to create a memorable event for local participants and spectacular sight for the visitors. In a few words we could say these festivities reflect the combination of three main influences: indigenous, European, African, and the role of the Catholic Church in Latin American popular culture.

Dsc02906 You may ask why is that Catholic festivals play such a large part in Latin American culture? It is because it's related to the history of this region. Spanish (and Portuguese) conquerors brought their religious beliefs with them when they came to the Americas, and these beliefs blended with the beliefs of the indigenous tribes in this part of the hemisphere at that time. Then, these two groups blended their beliefs with those of the African slaves that were brought to the "new continent" by the conquerors. At the end, those are the factors which have blended along centuries to give Latin America a unique culture of its own.

There are many other elements of Semana Santa that complete this festival, including participation in a passion play that depict the events from the Last Supper until the resurrection of Jesus.

Coc_1_2 Those that participate wear costumes and the plays are done with reverence for the events that surrounded the death and resurrection of Jesus. Finally, torchlight processions and many special foods, especially fish and seafood dishes and an array of homemade sweets which are prepared in an almost ceremonial ritual that includes many family members participating in the preparation of the goodies. 

We will share some recipes to prepare sweets and dessert in an upcoming post, so stay tuned!

Semana Santa truly is one of the most religious and solemn festivals within Latin America. We would love to learn about your experiences during these days and the recipes you prepared. So, drop me a line or two at the comments section of this post or send me an email.

Un abrazo,


lent chef melissa cookingdiva panama panamagourmet
  • by Chef Melissa
  • March 22, 2007
  • 12:15 pm


Picture of Le Cache Contemporary Le Cache Contemporary said on...
03.19.09 at 11:00 AM |

Thank you so much for posting this and providing this fondest memories.

Picture of Le Cache Contemporary Le Cache Contemporary said on...
03.30.09 at 01:16 PM |

Food plays an important role in the liturgical, ritual, canonical, and dogmatic life of the Eastern Orthodox Church. Throughout the ages, Orthodoxy—from the Greek orthós (correct) and dóxa (belief)—has come to encompass many nationalities throughout the world. Historically the early church was geographically separated into a Latin West (centered in Rome) and a Greek East in Constantinople (modern Istanbul). The Roman emperor Constantine, who sanctioned tolerance of Christians in 313, moved his capital to the Greek city of Byzantium (and renamed it Constantinople) in 330, and convened the first Ecumenical Council there. Although the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church remained in communion through the Seventh Ecumenical Council, the Great Schism of 1054 is the generally accepted date for the division of the Christian churches.

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