Venezuelan Immigrants Sell Delicacies from Home to Restart Life in São Paulo

Immigrants from the neighboring country undertake traditional cooking

São Paulo

Marifer is one of many Venezuelan immigrants who are rebuilding their lives in São Paulo through cooking and selling their country's food.

It is a path already traveled by Syrian refugees—with the additional challenge that Brazilians aren't familiar with Venezuelan food.

To present the dishes, the cooks resort to a lot of explanation, and some promote gastronomic experiences in their homes or at a guest house.

Venezuelan Arepas ( Foto: Karime Xavier / Folhapress) . - Folhapress

"It's not just eating. We research the history of the dishes and share this. We are neighbors, but we know little about you, and you know little about us," said Marifer, who was school director in a city near Caracas.

Most of them still do not have a fixed point and work with delivery, fairs, and even buffets. The menus go beyond the well-known arepas: there are other foods based on corn, salty snacks, organic sandwiches, cakes, and desserts. To broaden the public, many offer vegan options or adapt the fillings with flavors such as brigadeiro and chicken with Brazilian cheese sauce.

"There are many incredible Venezuelan foods with the potential to conquer the Brazilian palate," says Camila Batista, deputy director of Migraflix, a social startup that helps immigrants to become entrepreneurs.

Venezuelan options are among the most sought by companies that solicit the organization's "cultural catering" - which has 17 Venezuelans registered.

In these events, immigrants talk to the public. "They are the protagonists, people are asking about some seasoning, and there begins a dialogue about their life histories, food unites people," Camila said.

Although most of the ingredients are available in the Brazilian market, white corn flour, a base for various dishes - the "pan flour" - is harder tofind.

Translated by Kiratiana Freelon

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