FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Hispanic Heritage month is underway. It started September 15 because that day marks the anniversaries of independence of five Hispanic countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. The celebration ends October 15.
During the month-long celebration, WANE 15 will showcase stories about Latino heritage. We caught up with the Solis family at a Hispanic barbecue to talk food, family and culture at Fort Wayne’s Foster Park. “My dad is making steak on the grill,” said Maria Guadalupe Solis. “He’s also cooking up sausage, fish, and we have cactus. Yes, I know that sounds weird but it’s really good.”
In addition to those foods, the family regularly enjoys enchiladas, rice, beans and salsa, prepared by their mother. “Making salsa is what my mom likes the most,” said Solis. The 19-year old is the oldest of five children, soon to be six, because her mother is expecting in November.
Solis and her brothers and sisters enjoy their family time barbecues because they help preserve part of their Mexican heritage. “We still hold on to some traditions like family and the food. My mom cooks everyday,” said Solis. “One of the dishes we also like is Pico de gallo. You can eat it with anything. You can put it on your sausage or tortillo. We also love Coca-Cola. We always have it. That’s our brand. It’s not the same as the Mexican one. We think that one is better, but it’s something we always drink, Coco-Cola.”
“The food brings us together,” said Solis’ brother Jose. “It’s like we’re all cooking in harmony.” Food wasn’t always plentiful for the Solis family. 35 years ago Pedro and Maria moved from Mexico to Chicago before settling in Fort Wayne and they faced rough times. “It was tough at first,” said Pedro Solis.
“There were times he couldn’t find a secure job mostly because he didn’t speak the language or he didn’t have the degree requirement,” said Solis. “He’s my biggest role model. My mom is too but I think my dad has overcome more.”
The couple’s translator and oldest child Maria Guadalupe, has been helping them bridge the language barrier for most of her life. Her mother, also named Maria, is a homemaker and her father Pedro works at a plastics plant. “I went to school and with the little language I knew I had to translate for them. I’ve been the family translator since I was like six. With the little things I learned at school I had to help them.”
When she was young Solis and her family also had to rely on Fort Wayne’s Community Harvest Food Bank to make ends meet. Years later, Solis and her brother and sister’s work at the food bank as bilingual volunteers, helped her win the Pay it Forward four-year academic scholarship to the University of Saint Francis. “I am serving as a role model to my siblings that if I can do it, they can too.”
Solis is studying nursing. Her brother and sister also plan to attend college while staying committed to family and community, as they work to preserve their culture. “I am proud my children are doing something that my husband and I couldn’t,” said Solis’ mother.
Join WANE 15 for a half-hour special called Indiana’s Hispanic Heritage, Saturday, September 19 at 7:30 p.m.