How Flama Develops Their Pupusa - Related Content by Dichos de un Bicho
By Erika Del Cid
What happens when a traditional dish and cultural icon begins to rise in popularity and gets changed to become more hip and accessible? Besides causing disappointment and frustration among the people who are most accustomed to the dish, you also loose what made that dish unique, as well as its context and history.
This cartoon by Dichos de un Bicho depicts what is currently happening to pupusas, the national dish of El Salvador, which has in the last year become popularized by several Latinx-centered outlets like Flama and We Are Mitú. The online popularity of pupusas has mirrored its popularity commercially, as demonstrated by these pupusas sold by 7-Eleven and these shockingly un-traditional frozen pupusas sold at some Whole Foods in flavors such as kale and pinto bean. All of these variants do the same thing; they change pupusas, not for the benefit of Salvadorans who have been enjoying pupusas since pre-Colombian times, but for the general American population who seem to need flavors and ingredients other than the traditional variants. Changing the ingredients for more North-American centric ones makes it easier for non-Salvadorans to consume. Also, changing pupusas to look like something more familiar like a burrito or a taco, allows first time consumers to connect it to a dish they already know how to eat. This current pupusa fad is for affluent Americans who can afford to try food from a different culture, but don't want to actually eat traditional foods that could be too different from what they are used to.
As for Flama and We are Mitú's role in homogenizing all Latin American cultures? What they are doing is erasing the diversity and complexities in the people, culture, and history of the entire region.