“Wanna get Mexican?” somebody suggests in the family, or at the office, when everybody’s hungry and wants something quick & easy (quick & easy for the diners, not necessarily for the cook), and usually not expensive for a filling meal. From Taco Tuesday, to TexMex, CalMex . . . we often think of Latinos as specifically Mexicans/Mexican Americans. And Hispanics from Mexico have become such a major influence in our culture that we take them for granted. But more and more Latin American foods are being introduced to the Pacific Northwest, in fact, all of the United States (maybe as much or moreso in the Eastern US . . . remember “Westside Story”?)
For a comparison of TexMex and CalMex, see
In 2021-22 I got enthused about exploring all kinds of Hispanic influences in the US. Here are some Latino flavors I found around Portland and other cities in the Pacific Northwest. Below that are other cultural influences that have become an integral part of US society.
Portland Mercado--a variety of food carts from Latin America, 7238 SE Foster Rd, Portland OR.
Picnic tables, including accessible ones, store & restrooms. There's a roof over the picnic tables, but it's high, so you might still get sprizzled in the wind. Some parking in the rear--one day I went it was totally full, another day there was plenty of room. I suspect it has to do with the weather. There's a stage, as well, indicating events might happen there, and the bus has a stop there.
List of countries in Latin America
Foods, national dishes of Latin America
Argentina--Alecocina, at Portland Mercado, 7238 SE Foster Rd, Portland OR.
Belize--Love Belizean, 1503 SW Broadway, by PSU on a pretty steep hill for a manual wheelchair, M-F til 3pm, except if they run out of food—we got there at 10 min ‘til 3 and they were closed ☹, another try they were closed mid-day, but I ate there 2-3 years ago, and it was very good and not expensive; (503) 421-5599
Bolivia, Chile, & Peru--quinoa
Quinoa "originated with the Incas in the mountains of Bolivia, Chile and Peru. It’s been at the forefront in these regions for 5,000 years."
Brazil--Fogo de Chao, 930 SW 6th Ave, Portland OR-- downtown Portland
Serves a variety of meats brought hot on swords to your table by gaucho-dressed waiters, plus a superior salad/antipasto bar and desserts. Not inexpensive.
Chile--LeChon, 113 SW Naito Pkwy, Portland, OR 97204, across from Tom McCall Park; "Vibrant, rustic-chic haunt offering creative South American meals, happy hours & a tapas menu"--Google maps; small place in a big beautiful, historic building. Booths & barstools, but they managed to find a place I could sit in a wheelchair.
Columbia--Que Bacano!, at Portland Mercado, 7238 SE Foster Rd, Portland OR. My Spanish and his English were somewhat lacking, but we managed to communicate, and the food and the service were very good.
Costa Rica--La Carreta Pura Vida, at Portland Mercado 7238 SE Foster Road, Portland OR
I've never really cared for tamales, but this place could make a believer out of me! I just had to go back and sample the other delish dishes.
Cuba--Pambiche, Cuban restaurant at 2811 NE Glisan St, Portland, OR 97232; Excellent food, great decor, somewhat tight quarters inside, outdoor dining with fires (inaccessible for a wheelchair), entrance step bridged with a steep portable ramp for me (requires a helper), friendly patient staff.
El Salvador--La Puerta: Killingsworth Station Food Cart Pod, 1331 N Killingsworth St, Portland, OR 97217
Killingsworth Station Food Cart Pod has a number of food trucks with a variety of foods, including Salvadoran, Mexican, BBQ, Jewish, Mardi Gras beignets, Polish, etc. Not all are open all the time. There are covered picnic tables; get a key to the restroom from vendor. Extremely limited street parking, though if you contact any of the vendors ahead (better to text or order online than to call), you may park very briefly to pick up your food in the striped lines around the corner off N Maryland Ave. Steep incline from the sidewalks for a wheelchair.
My humble effort at left.
Recipes & History of Joumou
Honduras--Sabor Catracho, 742 NE 18125 Ave, Portland OR (Gresham)
I was forewarned this place is difficult to find and not really clearly signed. It was still hard to know if I was in the right place, a shopping strip next to Habitat for Humanity Restore, across from Gresham Police Rockwood station. It's a tiny place, partly restaurant & partly store, offering both Honduran and Mexican dishes. The young man at the counter struggled with English, but had tools to help with communication. He and the customers were so kind and helpful, accommodating for my wheelchair and language limitations. Delicious food, even if not very diabetic friendly. I got one meal to eat there, and one to go for later. Very filling.
Provecho, Vancouver WA, scroll below to "Oct 31--Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead)--Vancouver WA"
El Sombrero, Mexican Restaurant, Sandy Blvd, Portland OR
In early December of 2021 I went to The Grotto in Portland, and chose to pick up food curbside from El Sombrero, not terribly far away by car. The man was friendly and accommodating, as I was too worn out to go inside to get the food. https://www.elsombreropdx.com/
Las Flamas, Mexican restaurant, Vancouver WA
Handicapped parking on the west side. Rather a narrow walk for a wheelchair, but do-able. Great food & decor.
Peru--Salt & Pepper, Peruvian food cart, 2623 SE Belmont St, Portland OR M-Sun 10-10pm (503) 757-9442
We arrived about 11am when traffic was light (but parking can be a challenge in this neighborhood--after going around the block on narrow streets filled with cars parked on either side, we were fortunate that a couple cars just across the street from our destiny moved, and we were able to park along the street with room for my ramp to roll out). I had a time (as I always do) choosing between tantalizing menu items.
While the Philippines are not exactly Latin American, they definitely have Hispanic History as well as American history and culture (both in the US and Philippines). I decided to do Filipino food for Christmas Eve (Nochebuena), and discovered too late that you must order it way ahead if you want someone else to prepare it. So, I forged my way forward (or backward?) to try some Filipino recipes. Fotos follow:
Uruguay--PDX Emanadas food truck, Portland Saturday market, Tom McCall Waterfront Park, Portland OR
alfajores--"traditional confection found in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, the Philippines, Southern Brazil, Southern France, Spain, Uruguay, and Venezuela" Wikipedia; the vendor warned me the alfajores (cookie sandwich) was delicate--I daren't unwrap for the photo, so it doesn't show very well.
Venezuela--La Arepa, Carts on Foster, 5205 SE Foster Rd (enter SE 52nd Ave & Rhone St), Portland, OR 97206: Pabellon empanada/arepa--deep fried cornmeal pocket stuffed with shredded beef, fried plantain, black beans, and grated white cotija cheese. Quesillo, traditional Venezuelan dessert similar to flan. Like much of Latino food, not great for a diabetic, no matter how tasty!) Very limited, street parking.
Portland Art Museum—1219 SW Park Ave, Portland OR
In Feb of 2022 the much anticipated exhibit of Mexican Modernism opened, and we went to see it.
Oregon Historical Society Museum—1200 SW Park Ave, Portland OR
(across the park from Portland Art Museum)
Latinos in Oregon, Oregon Encyclopedia: A Project of the Oregon Historical Society
Basque Heritage, Boise ID & Ontario OR
Basque Museum, Boise ID
2021-2022 Latino Celebrations
Jan 1--New Year's Day--Haitian Independence, Joumou soup
Jan 6--Dia de los Reyes (3 Kings Day/Epiphany)--Rosca de Reyes
Feb 2--Dia de la Candelaria/Candlemas--tamales, candles
Mar 1--Carnival (Mardi Gras)--Brazil & New Orleans (at one time under Spanish rule)
Mardi Gras around the world, word document
Mar 2--Ash Wednesday, beginning of Lent
Apr 10 through 17--Holy Week
"Since the dietary restrictions of Lent are in effect the days before Easter, food can include, depending on what part of the country you are in, cheese pambazos (a Mexican white bread), fried fish, plantain dishes, tamarind and fruit." https://www.mexpro.com/blog/semana-santa-holy-week-mexico-celebrate/
May 5--Cinco de Mayo celebration in Sunnyside WA, May 6-8, 2022
Since Portland (OR) wasn't having a Cinco de Mayo celebration this year, I had to look far and wide to find one. Sunnyside is about 3 hours from Portland when conditions are right, but between rain and roadwork, it took me 4 hours. I traveled Hwy 14 east, north on Hwy 97 (from Maryhill), turned east at Toppenish and (with some adapting) drove Hwy 82 to Sunnyside. The rainy side of the Columbia Gorge was crowded with little fishing boats, despite the rain (and some were still there or just leaving as I came back through after 10pm in the dark!). Hwy 97 goes over the hills so it rained again--it's a pretty drive, though plenty of fire damage yet standing. Toppenish and Granger were intriguing, but I daren't divert myself until the way home (more about Hwy 97 in a future post). The carnival was set up (between 4th & 5th, Edison & Grant; vendors on 6th and around the corner by the Safeway). It hadn't really got started, and I expect celebrations would get more lively later in the evening (as people got home from school and work, and probably quite a few travel from other towns of the Yakima Valley). Saturday and Sunday had performers staged and more activities planned, but I couldn't stay. I explored a little around town, then Granger (dinosaurs), and Toppenish (lots of cool murals), and got home about 11 hours from when I started out. Long day, but I was so glad I went and explored new territory.
Sept 16--Mexican Independence--Ontario OR (photos below), and Hispanic Heritage Month in Portland OR
"How to Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month 2021 in Portland - EverOut Portland"
Oct 31--Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead)--Vancouver WA (Oct 30) 2021
Dec 4--Advent--the Grotto; NE 85th Avenue & Sandy Blvd, Portland OR
I visited the Grotto early December of 2021, and counted that for all the Latino/Hispanic holidays of December (most of Latin America as well as Hispanics around the world are Catholic; much of the Christian world also celebrate at least some of those religious holidays), since I couldn't find any other venues that were offering those celebrations, due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Dec 12--Virgin of Guadalupe
Dec 16-24--Los Posadas
Dec 24--NochebuenaFilipino Nochebuena—Christmas Eve; photos above at "Philippines—homemade holiday"
In many ways the experience of Japanese Americans must have been a juxtaposition of cultures such as is playfully depicted in “Flower Drum Song . . . the eighth musical by the team of Rodgers and Hammerstein. It is based on the 1957 novel, The Flower Drum Song, by Chinese-American author C. Y. Lee. It premiered on Broadway in 1958 and was then performed in the West End and on tour. It was adapted for a 1961 musical film,” [Wikipedia] except that many Americans held lingering vindictive attitudes because of the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the late war with Japan--even though Japanese Americans had no part in the attack, were good citizens, and many joined the United States military and fought valiantly and loyally for their country.
I've been in a wheelchair for 30+ years. It poses some challenges for traveling. Maybe others can benefit from my experiences.