By Belle Vang, COSS Communications Student Assistant


Dr. Anabella España-Nájera, Chicano & Latin American Studies (CLAS) Associate Professor, expresses her enthusiasm for keeping her Guatemalan heritage through family and food after migrating to the U.S. in 1988.

Dr. España-Nájera recalls the warm experience of traveling to Peten, Guatemala

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Tikal pyramid in Peten, Guatemala

to visit the pyramids when she was eight years old with her parents and sisters.  She remembers her amazement as she climbed up the pyramids and shared those irreplaceable memories with her sisters.

Dr. España-Nájera returned to Peten with her mother, sisters, and sisters’ families in 2017 to visit the Tikal pyramid.  She says traveling with her entire family was beyond exciting because it was a rare experience, long overdue.

“It meant a lot to me that my two nieces and nephew, who were almost the same age as my sisters and me when we originally went there, got to have the same experience that I remember.”

In the United States, she continues to celebrate her Guatemalan background with her nieces and nephew through her culture’s food. 

“My nieces and nephew eat most Guatemalan food; they all love black beans and tortillas–which are the basic staples in the country.”

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Guatemalan tamales

During special occasions, her family eats Guatemalan foods that are available outside of Guatemala, such as tamales–not be confused with Mexican tamales.  Guatemalan tamales retain more moisture by using thicker banana leaves instead of corn husks and has olives, red peppers, and capers in its fillings.  They eat popular foods like the tamales during traditional holidays like Dia de los Muertos, which is also celebrated differently in comparison to Mexico.

Proud of her Hispanic heritage, Dr. España-Nájera continues to enjoy celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month with her family and students because “it celebrates the variation of the Latinx community and their substantial and diverse contributions to the U.S.”