Latino Culture: Bugs on the Menu – Yum or Yuck?

A woman about to take a bite of a taco filled with grasshoppers

Latin American gastronomy is known for its rich flavors, varied textures, and inventive use of locally sourced ingredients. One of these components, often overlooked, is the use of insects in traditional dishes. For many Latinos, insects are not just a novelty but a part of their culinary identity.


Eating Insects: An Ancient Practice

a bowl of edible larvae

Freepik

Insect consumption, or entomophagy, is not a recent fad but rather a practice dating back thousands of years. In pre-Columbian times, indigenous communities across Latin America, from Mexico to Brazil, regularly incorporated insects into their diet. Insects were a reliable food source, easy to find, and rich in essential nutrients.

The use of insects in Latino cuisine varies across the region, and it's closely tied to cultural identity. For example, in Mexico, insects like grasshoppers (chapulines), maguey worms (gusanos de maguey), and ant eggs (escamoles) are regional delicacies with deep cultural roots. In Brazil, Queen ants (Içá or Tanajura) are collected, fried, and eaten as a seasonal snack. The custom of insect consumption is also part of religious and festive events.

Common Types of Edible Insects

Some of the most common types of insects consumed include:

  • Chapulines (Grasshoppers): Frequently found in Mexican markets, chapulines are rich in protein, fiber, good fats, and are a source of vitamins and minerals. Mix sautéed chapulines with onions, chili peppers, and tomatoes, then spoon this filling into a soft tortilla for some delicious tacos, or add a handful of toasted chapulines to your traditional guacamole recipe to provide a crunchy texture and an extra dose of protein!
  • Escamoles (Ant eggs): Known as 'Mexican caviar,' these ant larvae are a good source of protein and low in fat. For a delicious dish, you can sauté escamoles with onions, garlic, and epazote, then serve with warm tortillas as a taco or use escamoles as the main protein in a clear soup along with vegetables like carrots, zucchini, and peas.
  • Gusanos de Maguey (Maguey worms): These caterpillars are found in the Agave plant and are high in protein and vitamins. Add fried gusanos de maguey to your guacamole for a unique twist and extra protein, or add sautéed maguey worms to melted cheese and serve with tortillas for a delicious queso fundido.
  • Içá or Tanajura (Queen ants): Consumed in Brazil, these insects are high in protein and low in saturated fats. Fry the ants with garlic, onions, peppers, and soy sauce, then serve over steamed rice for a protein-packed meal, or add fried queen ants to a clear vegetable soup for an extra boost of protein and unique flavor.

Are insects the future of sustainable and nutritious protein?

Insects provide a substantial nutritional punch, with high levels of protein, fiber, and micronutrients like iron, zinc, and essential vitamins. Their nutritional profile makes them an excellent alternative to traditional sources of protein like beef, chicken, or pork.

From an environmental perspective, insect farming has a significantly smaller carbon footprint than livestock farming. Insects require less land, water, and food and produce fewer greenhouse gases. They can be farmed sustainably and could help address food security issues as global populations continue to rise.

Incorporating insects into the diet is not merely about novelty or shock value. For many Latinos, it's about preserving a historical tradition, a connection to their pre-Hispanic ancestors, and a sustainable way of eating. As the world seeks more environmentally friendly protein sources, we could learn a lot from the Latino tradition of entomophagy.

vibrant graphic design featuring two female wrestlers in action

Picture this: the grand arena hums with the electricity of expectation and the clamor of a thousand voices, all waiting for the spectacle of the age-old Mexican tradition of Lucha Libre, a wrestling style born in the heart of Mexico in the early 20th century.

The combatants aren’t mere wrestlers; they are luchadores, artists of acrobatics and theatricality, their faces hidden behind vibrant masks that carry stories older than the very sport they represent, stories rooted in the legacy of the ancient Aztecs.

Keep ReadingShow less
Women in Texas at the National Women's March, rallying against deadly abortion restrictions.
Lucy Flores

The landscape of abortion rights in the United States has become more restrictive than ever in recent history, particularly in Arizona and Florida, where recent developments represent a major setback for women’s reproductive rights. On April 9, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled in a 4-to-2 decision to uphold an 1864 law banning abortion from the moment of conception. The only exception is saving the mother’s life, but there are no exceptions for rape or incest under this law.

Just a few days earlier, on April 1, the Florida Supreme Court also ruled in favor of upholding a 6-week abortion ban, which will take effect on May 1. This further reduced the legal threshold for abortions in Florida, which used to be 24 weeks of pregnancy before Republicans passed a law in 2022 banning abortions after 15 weeks. Both of these rulings have sparked intense debate and outrage about their impact on women’s rights.

Overview of the Near-Total Abortion Ban in Arizona

The Arizona Supreme Court voted to uphold an 1864 law, a law passed even before the state officially was a part of the United States of America, that makes all types of abortion illegal, including medication abortion, from the moment of conception. Though there are exceptions in cases where the mother’s life is at risk, the ban makes no exceptions for cases of rape or incest and imposes severe penalties, including imprisonment, on medical professionals performing abortions.

Medical professionals have spoken out about how dire the situation will become for women with this near-total abortion ban. Dr. Jill Gibson, chief medical director of Planned Parenthood in Arizona, told CNN that this ruling will have “absolutely unbelievable consequences for the patients in our community.” She continued by saying, “Providers need to be able to take care of their patients without fear of legal repercussions and criminalization.”

Representatives from Arizona and other states across the country have also spoken up against this near-total abortion ban.

Video by Shontel Brown Member of the United States House of Representatives on InstagramVideo by Shontel Brown Member of the United States House of Representatives on Instagram


Image by Rub\u00e9n Gallego Member of the United States House of Representatives on InstagramImage by Rubén Gallego Member of the United States House of Representatives on InstagramImage by Rubén Gallego Member of the United States House of Representatives on Instagram

Until this Arizona Supreme Court decision, abortion had been legal in the state up to 15 weeks of pregnancy. The right to abortion via Roe v. Wade prevented the enforcement of the near-total abortion ban, but since a majority vote in the Supreme Court of the United States overturned Roe, those opposed to abortion rights had been fighting to enforce the 160-year-old 1864 law.

This new abortion ban in Arizona is not effective immediately as the court has paused its ruling for 14 days until additional arguments are heard in a lower court about how constitutional the law is. However, the law will likely come into effect in May, a few weeks from now. Planned Parenthood Arizona, the largest abortion provider in the state, will continue serving the community until the ban is enforced.

An Overview of Florida's Six-Week Abortion Ban

The landscape of abortion in Florida has also undergone a significant change with the enforcement of a 6-week abortion ban, replacing the previous 15-week limit. This ban, similar to Arizona's, severely restricts access to abortion care and poses a significant challenge to reproductive rights in the state. Providers are bracing for a public health crisis due to the increased demand for abortion and limited options for patients.

Practically speaking, a 6-week abortion ban is a near-total abortion ban because pregnant people often don’t even realize they could be pregnant by this early stage. Combined with Florida’s strict abortion requirements, which include mandatory in-person doctor visits with a 24-hour waiting period, it’s nearly impossible for those who may want an abortion to be able to access it before 6 weeks. Not to mention that fulfilling the requirements is particularly challenging for low-income individuals.

Video by theluncheonlawyer on InstagramVideo by theluncheonlawyer on Instagram

Moreover, this Florida law also restricts telemedicine for abortion and requires that medication be provided in person, effectively eliminating mail-order options for abortion pills. While exceptions for rape and incest exist in Florida, the requirements are also strict, asking victims to provide police records or medical records. For victims who don’t always report sexual violence for many different reasons, these exceptions don’t make a difference.

The consequences of Florida’s ban extend to neighboring states with more restrictive abortion laws. For instance, residents of Alabama, facing a total ban on abortion, and Georgia, with its own 6-week abortion ban, have relied on Florida for abortion services. That will no longer be an option, further limiting care alternatives.

The Road Ahead

These recent abortion bans in Arizona and Florida are a major setback for women's rights, particularly impacting Latina women who already face barriers to accessing quality healthcare. These bans not only restrict women’s reproductive freedom but also endanger their lives.

Efforts to challenge these bans through legal means and ballot measures are ongoing, but the road ahead is uncertain. While there’s hope for overturning these abortion bans, the challenges of conservative laws and legal battles are formidable. The November ballot in both states will be crucial in determining the future of abortion rights and access for all.