Cooking is Our Duty: Gender and Modernization in Mexico during the Second Half of the Twentieth Century

Friday, January 3, 2014: 8:50 AM
Columbia Hall 2 (Washington Hilton)
Sandra Aguilar-Rodríguez, Moravian College
In 1967 Josefina Sánchez started her cooking show under the name of Chepina Peralta. She was an ordinary middle-class housewife who did not like to cook, and she claimed that her success was based on the similarities between herself and her middle-class audience: women who cooked because they had to. Chepina's popularity increased in the following decades when even poor families were able to buy a television. Chepina's show was broadcasted for over 25 years, later on she moved to the radio and kept publishing cookbooks covering topics from cooking in times of austerity to cooking with a microwave. The study of her career allow us to elaborate on the introduction of canned and processed food in Mexico as Chepina collaborated with the food industry and eventually created her own line of tv dinners. More recently Chepina turned to the promotion of healthy eating as a way to fight against obesity and the growth of diabetes in Mexico. Through the analysis of her television programs, cookbooks, and an oral history interview this paper explores Chepina's experience as a housewife and a public figure within the context of gender and modernization in Mexico. Chepina Peralta's transformation from an ordinary housewife into a celebrity chef shows the changes and continuities in women's roles, as well as middle-class expectations in the second half of the twentieth century. Exploring her recipes provides insights into how she and her audience envisioned Mexican cooking and thus their national identity at the end of the twentieth century.