When Sicilian photographer Ferdinando Scianna visited Oaxaca and experienced how chocolate was made based on an Aztec recipe, he claimed he felt right at home. A mirror of that experience is available to visitors from Mexico in the Sicilian town of Modica, where chocolate is also made following that very ancient technique.
On April 19, the virtual event “Aztec Chocolate in Sicily” offered a journey through the fascinating transnational routes of cultural cross-pollination created by the Spanish Empire and its legacy… in a chocolate bar. Chef Annalisa Pompeo guided us through the preparation of bars with different flavors, from chili pepper to cinnamon, after chocolatier Pierpaolo Ruta illustrated the intricate history of this preparation and its unconventional meaning in today’s Made in Italy market. Prof. Floriana Di Gesù illustrated the COIL project, a language and culture learning initiative that incorporates the preparation of the bars. Over 150 people participated, and many interacted with the speakers with questions about religious practices, traditional tools and multiple influences, from the Arabs to the Jews, connected to these chocolate bars.
The event was presented with simultaneous interpretation into English and Spanish with two interpreters based in New York (Maria Galetta and Lilia Pino Blouin) and two based in Madrid (Giampaolo Sponza and Raffaello Dal Col), while the technical support was provided by Lydia Rosenberg in Philadelphia. Considering that the speakers all connected from Sicily, this was a truly transnational event!
Teresa Fiore, designer and moderator of the event, announced that the exploration of the commonalities between Italy and Latin America will continue in the future, as part of a thematic series.
The event was part of the NEH project “Memoria Presente: The Common Spanish Legacy in Italian and Latin American Cultures” and the COIL video project in collaboration with the University of Palermo.