Get a Taste of the Great Mexican Food Journey in Foxton

Published on November 15, 2022

De la Milpa web.jpg

After drawing curious crowds in Wellington and Christchurch, the much-celebrated colours and flavours of Mexico are now coming to Foxton.

The exhibition ‘De la Milpa a la Mesa: A Mexican food journey’, will bring a taste of Latin America to the Horowhenua during the festive season.

Cutting-edge installations and interactive gadgets, all about the country’s agricultural and culinary heritage, will be on display in Te Awahou Nieuwe Stroom from 25 November to the end of January.

“We wanted to do something different and exciting this holiday season, especially for families,” says Arjan van der Boon, Marketing Manager for Te Awahou Riverside Cultural Park.

“With the kids looking for something to do, parents can take them into our art gallery. They can play around and learn all kinds of interesting things about a country with a delicious cuisine. Most people will already know about tacos or guacamole. Now you can find out how to make Mexican food, and uncover the fascinating and diverse culinary history that Mexico offers.”

‘De la Milpa a la Mesa’ celebrates the richness of Mexican cuisine, from farms and markets to restaurants and home kitchens. Farmers, scientists, vendors, and cooks from across Mexico share their unique perspectives on agriculture, climate change, food sovereignty, and how their diverse communities are confronting global concerns in their everyday lives – concerns similar to those found in Aotearoa New Zealand.

“The great thing in Foxton is always how the community gathers behind these kinds of initiatives,” says Arjan. “And this time the cafés in our Cultural Park will serve Mexican dishes, while De Molen will grind corn flour in the windmill. Whānau can experiment with making their own tasty tortillas at home.”

An events programme and set of learning resources accompanies ‘De la Milpa a la Mesa’, which will be shared with schools throughout Horowhenua, Manawatū, Whanganui and Kāpiti.

The excellently researched exhibition was created as an international collaboration. It was developed through a partnership between Te Herenga Waka Victoria University of Wellington’s Museum and Heritage Studies programme (VUW) and the Posgrado en Estudios y Prácticas Museales programme of the Escuela Nacional de Conservación, Restauración y Museografía of the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (ENCRyM) in Mexico City. Seven post-graduate students in New Zealand and two in Mexico City did the development work, as part of a supervised internship in the Cultural Sector Partnership programme of the Latin America Centre of Asia-Pacific Excellence (LatAm CAPE).

The exhibition is the result of years of collaborative efforts between Dr Lee Davidson from VUW and Dr Leticia Pérez Castellanos from ENCRyM.

On the exhibition’s relevance to New Zealand, Dr Davidson says, “Many New Zealanders know little about Mexico beyond the stereotypes found in films and news media. In creating this exhibition, we wanted to share the richness and diversity of Mexican culture through something New Zealanders can easily relate to — food and agriculture. Visitors will be surprised and inspired by the fascinating stories and people they will meet in the exhibition.”

Dr Pérez agrees: “As a Mexican who has been to New Zealand, I am amazed by the similarities and differences between our two countries, and I always hope that more New Zealanders would learn more about Mexico and vice versa. I am proud to participate in “De la Milpa a la Mesa” and to be able to communicate unique aspects of my culture, so that people can engage with it, and be curious to learn and experience more.”

The first section of the exhibition, the ‘milpa’, highlights the importance of biodiversity and the essential roles small-scale farmers and scientists play in adapting to old and new threats to their ecosystems.

The ‘mercado’ (or market) then offers an immersive experience with the sights, sounds, and smells of Mexico’s many, diverse, and famous neighbourhood markets.

The ‘mesa’ showcases the spectrum of culinary options, from home cooks preserving generations of recipes, to owners of high-end restaurants attracting global attention to cutting-edge Mexican cuisine.

For a lasting taste of the exhibition, visitors can take home recipes from New Zealand’s Mexican communities to their own kitchens.

“The exhibition was informed by the latest thinking around intercultural museum practice and visitor engagement,” commented Dr Matthew O’Meagher, Director of the Latin America CAPE, which has supported the project.

“In order to do business with Latin America, New Zealanders must first be aware of this region. We are therefore excited to help New Zealanders engage with the richness of Mexican culture and see the social and environmental similarities between us. The exhibition fosters intercultural dialogue about issues such as climate change, sustainability and the future of agriculture and consumption.”

The Latin America CAPE was established in July 2017 to bring New Zealand closer to Latin America. By drawing university experience together with nimble delivery systems, the CAPE helps New Zealanders deepen sustainable, future-focused commercial growth and relationships, and builds knowledgeable schools and universities. It does this through the delivery of evidence-based programmes, events and tools that are available to the broader New Zealand public.

The Latin America Centre of Asia-Pacific Excellence (LatAm CAPE) hosts the exhibition, in partnership with Te Awahou Nieuwe Stroom, from 25 November 2022 to 29 January 2023.

De la Milpa a la Mesa – A Mexican Food Journey
Māpuna Kabinet Art Gallery
Friday 25 November 2022 to Sunday 29 January 2023

For more exhibition information please contact:
Dr Lee Davidson, Project Lead; +64 022 188 1411;
Craig Nicholson, Deputy Director, Latin America Centre of Asia-Pacific Excellence; +64 22 0145 069;