32nd annual De León Symposium to focus on food culture

This year’s free Martín De León Symposium on the Humanities will focus on Mexican Americans and the culture of their food on Oct. 13 at the University of Houston-Victoria.

The symposium’s theme is “Comida, Café, y Cultura,” meaning food, coffee and Mexican American culture. It will focus on the importance of food and drink in Mexican American culture and what it means to people. The 32nd annual symposium will begin at 10 a.m. in the UHV University West Alcorn Auditorium, 3007 N. Ben Wilson St. The event is open to the public.

“The annual symposium is a wonderful opportunity for the community to come together, consider topics not normally discussed, and learn more about Hispanic culture,” said Victor Mendoza, president of the De León Club and a member of the symposium steering committee. “We try to cover a lot of topics everyone would find interesting from court cases, Hispanic issues, voter registration, school walk outs, educational challenges, to music and food. We want this to be a safe place for audience members to ask questions, learn as much as possible, and ultimately, better understand each other.”

The De León Symposium is a cooperative effort between UHV and the De León Club, and is designed to educate the community about Mexican American history and culture.

Joseph Locke

“I look forward to this event because it connects the university with members of the community, bringing academia and civic organizations together,” said Joseph Locke, a member of the organizing committee and a UHV assistant professor of history. “The topic of food is a great choice because it is an essential part of people’s everyday lives, and it has served as a bridge between Mexican Americans and others. For example, Mexican American food has been infused with outside influences, resulting in the classic idea of Tex-Mex.”

Yolanda Godsey, a professor of Spanish and Mexican American studies at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, will open the event with a literary presentation, “The Cultural Kitchen Celebrated in Chicana Literature,” discussing the significance of food in Latina literature.

“Whether it be in the form of a well-spun yarn about a magical pot of beans or a recipe to be ritualistically followed, these textual meals nourish our collective minds, and when the recipe is prepared, nourish our bodies, as well,” Godsey said. “The presence of food in these Chicana texts is symbolic of its numerous social functions. This talk aims to recognize the simplicity yet wholesomeness of Mexican and Tex-Mex foods as well as open a discussion about this cultural cuisine.”

John Valdivia

John Valdivia, owner of The Box Coffee Bar in Victoria, will discuss the personal and business side of the food industry in his presentation, “Who Are You and How Did You Get In My Cup?”

“I remember mornings at my home where we would wake up and gather at the table for coffee and breakfast; it was almost like breathing, and it helped set the tone for my family’s day,” Valdivia said. “I think coffee is a thread that weaves itself throughout many cultures, including the Mexican American culture. Many social interactions center on a cup of coffee, and the conversations that take place around it allow people to relax. Coffee plays a central role in bringing people together.”

Named for Victoria founder Martín De León, the De León Club is a nonprofit organization founded in 1965 that is dedicated to promoting business and encouraging civic participation to improve the quality of life in Victoria.

For more information, contact Joseph Locke, assistant history professor at the UHV School of Arts & Sciences, at 361-570-4292 or

The University of Houston-Victoria, located in the heart of the Coastal Bend region since 1973 in Victoria, Texas, offers courses leading to more than 80 academic programs in the schools of Arts & Sciences; Business Administration; and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. UHV provides face-to-face classes at its Victoria campus, as well as an instructional site in Katy, Texas, and online classes that students can take from anywhere. UHV supports the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Opportunities for All initiative to increase awareness about state colleges and universities and the important role they have in providing a high-quality and accessible education to an increasingly diverse student population, as well as contributing to regional and state economic development.

Ashley Strevel 361-570-4342