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Food and Religion, Iberian Colonial America

Pork related recipes and stories below

Labor Day is traditional a time when folks in the United States barbecue. Many like me will barbecue some delicious part of a hog. The Spanish first introduced large numbers of domesticated hogs to the Island of Hispaniola in the Caribbean in the 16th century. Because the islands had no predators and many root crops to graze on, the pigs thrived.  Europeans quickly learned from locals how to smoke and barbecue the pig. In 1555, one traveler described the residents of Santo Domingo as having great amounts of pork and poultry. The pork, he writes, is “very sweet and savoury [sic]; and so wholesome that they give it to sick folks to eat, instead of . . . poultry . . . I”

Before the invention of refrigeration necessity required meat lovers to eat locally and for many that meant pork from hogs they raised or their neighbors raised. In tropical regions like the Caribbean, rural folk

slaughtered, butchered, and consumed the meat of the hog generally on the same day or they smoked, salted, and or jerked the hog. Jerking (salting and drying it in the sun) to conserve meat has a long history and that extends around the globe. For example we know that in the Andes the Inca made jerked alpaca and llama meat. Finally, in part, the Spanish Inquisition also contributed to increased consumption of pork in the Americas among colonist in Iberian America. Eating massive amounts of pork became a strategy for avoiding public suspicion that one did not adhere to Catholicism and instead practiced a native American religion, Judaism, or Islam. 

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