"The Roots Of Texas Mexican" is a documentary about the “comida casera,” home cooking, of Texas and the Mexican border land. The documentary is a production of JM Communications based in Houston Texas, in collaboration with two Latin American filmmakers. On-location shooting began this summer, and over 9 days the film crew travelled to Houston, San Antonio, Corpus Christi and the Rio Grande Valley. The documentary will be aired on US Public Broadcast stations and on Latin American television stations, while some podcast segments will be streamed online.
The documentary features Texas archaeological and historical sites to show how cooking began 13,000 years ago with techniques like salting, drying, steaming, roasting and baking. But the filmmakers insist that it is not a cooking show. “It’s the untold story of how cooking shaped and celebrated the Mexican American community of Texas during 500 years of conquest,” says Adán Medrano, Executive Producer of the documentary.
Cooking is depicted as the act of survival, resistance and celebration of the Mexican American, Native American communities. Shooting locations included outdoor earth ovens and home kitchens, revealing that today’s Texas cooks are replicating what their indigenous ancestors cooked: quail, deer, cactus and seafood from the Texas gulf coast. “People narrate their histories through the act of cooking,” says Medrano.
Filming in San Antonio included the traditional Mexican “Barbacoa De Pozo” at the home of Christine Ortega, an executive for Southwest Airlines. Ortega and her family cook “barbacoa” the ancient traditional way, digging a pit in her backyard where she places an entire cow’s head, covers it with burlap, spices and earth, and cooks it all night long. The film crew shot the entire process, including unearthing the cooked “barbacoa” on Sunday morning and sharing the breakfast feast (corn tortillas, salsa de chile Serrano, aguacate) with her extended family.
In Corpus Christi, Medrano interviewed Apache leader, Larry Running Turtle Salazar, who tells the story of how his mother’s food maintained his courage and identity when he was ridiculed in school for being Mexican, Native American. For the first time, this film tells the story of the Native American communities of 10,000 years ago who are the ancestors of today’s Mexican American community.
Footage includes river views shot from a boat in the middle of the Rio Grande, striking images of both the Mexican and the US river banks, as families take a summer swim in the cool water. The same food is cooked and enjoyed on both sides of the river.
“The Roots Of Texas Mexican Food” will be a bi-lingual documentary, with dialog recorded in English and Spanish. The international production crew will consist of Texas and Latin American filmmakers. The director is Anibal Capoano, an award-winning documentary filmmaker from Uruguay whose work includes four documentaries since 2009. The director of photography is film veteran Gabriel Bendahan who has shot several feature documentaries and four major Latin American feature films, including “A Bullet For Che” directed by Gabriela Guillermo.
The production team is headed by long-time film production manager, Virginia Díaz from Houston. Díaz is the Producer, and brings years of experience in feature films like “Selena,” and managing productions for 20th Century Fox Television, including “Cristina’s Court” which earned three Emmy awards.
Díaz says that this new indie documentary will show how Mexican American “comida casera,” home cooking, has an international appeal. “We will film the Mexican home cooking of Texas, so that it resonates with other cultures and nations.”