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Food historian, Cruz Miguel Ortiz Cuadra, Dies at Age 67

Renowned food historian, author, and educator, Cruz Miguel Ortiz Cuadra has died at the age of 67.  His brother noted that, although the author had been in remission from a battle with lung cancer, he had recently suffered a heart attack that led to a downturn in his health.

Cuadra was not only a food historian of all things Puerto Rican cuisine, he essentially became the island’s protector; and an ambassador of its culture. 

Born in Georgia but raised in Puerto Rico, it was a culinary seminar in Oxford, England, as he studied abroad, that led to his awakening to the rich nature of Puerto Rican cuisine.  This experience, coupled with his own research and tireless efforts, lead to his dissertation which became the basis for his cookbook, Eating Puerto Rico: A history of food, culture, and identity.

The second half of this title holds a key significance in Cuadra’s contribution to the island and the world over.  His book was more than a cookbook: it was a historical overview, a social commentary, and an introduction to the island that cannot be displayed accurately via the media.  It was the start of his conscious advocacy for the island itself.  

Cuadra wrote multiple books about the island’s cuisine, as well as stepped into his role as an educator by teaching the youth about Puerto Rican cuisine, its origins, and even the origins of the ingredients themselves—some of which are indigenous; while some are the result of colonization over time, climate change, issues and/or changes in farming practices, etc.

He even called for the staking of culinary “territory” by the Puerto Rican people via a collaborative project to nail roasted pork a heritage food; emphasizing the differences of plantains and bananas, so these two fruits would not continue to be considered “interchangeable”.

The culinary world, Puerto Rico, and the world owe Cuadra a debt in his protection and conservation of traditions, which can easily be lost in the constant shuffle of globalization and time.


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