Colombian chef Leonor Espinosa has always given cooking a dimension that surpasses mere culinary interest.
Her activism has led her to promote projects such as the Artistic District, which she is developing in the El Pozón neighborhood of Cartagena de Indias (Colombia) and which she presented this Wednesday in San Sebastián Gastronomika, in the north of Spain.
Espinosa combines cuisine, science, ecology and art in the comprehensive gastronomic model that he makes a reality in that area, where the majority of the population lives “on the threshold of poverty.”
A neighborhood created from the migration of farmers in the 60s and 70s who were looking for new opportunities and fleeing the armed conflict, also inhabited by those who had not had and wanted to have a home.
It is a place where even today there are difficulties in the electricity supply, lack of drinking water, inadequate houses and roads in poor condition, to which is added a serious crime problem, a high unemployment rate and difficult access for the population to health, education, culture and recreation.
Delinquent and ignorant are adjectives that the inhabitants of El Pozón usually carry, where land is going to be acquired to build a library, community and cultural spaces in parallel with gastronomic spaces, all thanks to the Magdalena Foundation, a private institution, and Funleo, the non-profit organization that Espinosa created in 2008.
The role of women in the El Pozón project
Funleo, which is now directed by her daughter, Laura Hernández Espinosa, will be in charge of the gastronomic line of the project in which rice stands as a “symbol of freedom” for the women in charge of cooking it.
Five women from El Pozón – Casilda Díaz, Celia Puentes, Luz E. Batista, Neider Cantillo and Yina Blanco – are the heart of a project whose purpose is to achieve the well-being of that peripheral area, through cuisine inspired by the Pozón diet. , typical of that area, and associated with passion and its cultural heritage, not “exclusively with technique.”
“If cuisine were based only on technique, it would tend to be predictable and the cultural connection would be disregarded, its soul and emotion would not be captured,” highlighted the chef, who presented in Gastronomika a crab rice, a crustacean found in the nearby mangroves.
El Pozón is considered a rural area with low, flood-prone lands, suitable for growing rice, the basis of its diet, complemented with other ingredients obtained from swamps, forests and mangroves.
Community gardens and a community restaurant are part of the project of this chef, who in 2017 won the Basque Culinary World Prize for her work in favor of the indigenous people of her country and biodiversity.