By Raoul Lowery Contreras
“Guajalote” is the Nahuatl Indian word for the large bird that was proposed as our national symbol by Benjamin Franklin.
Franklin’s bird lost to bald eagle, but then Franklin is famous for his disparagement of things foreign to Colonial America — like immigrants from Germany. But he probably didn’t know that the turkey was domesticated by Mesoamerican Indians centuries before any Englishmen came to the new world.
Yes, that majestic fowl we serve on Thanksgiving was domesticated by the Aztecs in the Valley of Mexico. They also gave us corn, sweet potatoes, squash and numerable other foods we serve to celebrate the holiday.
The turkeys the colonials found were lean, larger than chickens; birds that had a breast that was a meal unto itself. These birds were so easily domesticated that thousands of wild turkeys could be penned and domesticated in the first generation. They could also fattened by feeding corn and other cereals, growing larger than their wild cousins who lived off the land.
The colonials found out what the Mesoamerican Indians discovered: “herds” of turkeys could feed a lot of people. Colonials called them flocks.
The turkey takes second place to chicken in world bird diet, but it dominates our tables on Thanksgiving Day. It is one more usurpation of Mexican food on our Thanksgiving plate along with the corn, sweet potatoes and squash. Add to that cranberries from New England and one finally arrives at an all-“American” meal.
White meat, dark meat; it sounds like America’s race question. Laugh out loud!
Enjoy the irony. Happy Thanksgiving!
Raoul Lowery Contreras is a political consultant and the author of “The Armenian Lobby & American Foreign Policy” and “The Mexican Border: Immigration, War and a Trillion Dollars in Trade.” His work has appeared in the New American News Service of the New York Times Syndicate.
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