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Colorado immigrant recipes and stories fill Cocina Libre

Yraima Ylarraza cooks a dish featured in Cocina Libre: Immigrant Resistance Recipes.
Courtesy of Julia Roncoroni
Yraima Ylarraza cooks a dish featured in Cocina Libre: Immigrant Resistance Recipes.

"Cocina Libre: Immigrant Resistance Stories" is a new cookbook featuring recipes from immigrants and refugees who have recently arrived in Colorado. Each recipe is accompanied by the deeply personal story of the immigrant and their journey to the United States.

One of the book's co-authors is Dr. Julia Roncoronia, a psychologist and associate professor at the University of Denver.

Originally from Argentina, Dr. Roncoronia began working with immigrants when she and her partner, Dr. Delio Figueroa, who is from Puerto Rico, moved to the United States. The more involved they got with the community, Roncoronia and her partner started hearing many stories they felt had to be told.

“We wanted to share these stories in a way that was more public, to bring awareness and understanding and empathy towards immigrants,” explained Roncoronia.

Often gathering for potlucks, the book also emerged from a shared love of food.

“As immigrants, this is what we do, right? We love through food. We grieve through food. We communicate through food. And many of our immigrants also live off the food industry. So it's one avenue for communicating that is very meaningful to us,” said Roncoronia.

The new self-published cookbook is called Cochina Libre: Immigrant Resistance Recipes is published in English and Spanish. All of the proceeds go to the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition.

We had 20 chefs participate, from 10 different countries. We have countries like Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, and Ukraine,” Roncoronia said.

Each recipe featured in the cookbook is accompanied by a photo of the cook. Most of those featured are women.

The book shares their stories of migration and recounts their journeys to Colorado, including the harrowing trek through the Darién Gap undertaken by many Central Americans.

We worked intentionally with immigrants who had temporary status or who were undocumented; immigrants who have DACA, immigrants who are undocumented, or refugees,” Roncoronia said.

“We had many conversations before we started around the potential implications of people seeing their story. All of them consented to be in the book. There's power in centering these testimonials,” Roncoronia explained. “These are communities that are very marginalized and pushed to the side very often. And so in psychology, again, we use the word testimonial to bring them to the center.”

Copyright 2024 KGNU.

This story was shared via Rocky Mountain Community Radio, a network of public media stations in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, and New Mexico including Aspen Public Radio.

John Lehndorff is the food editor for the Boulder Weekly and host of Radio Nibbles and Kitchen Table Talk at KGNU.