For the second in our series of mini-interviews with Dominicans from the artistic and cultural world, we travelled virtually to the second-largest Dominican city in the world, New York City, home to an estimated one million Dominicans.
We are proud to publish this interview with one of them, a wonderful visual artist and musician, German Pérez, who brings us a personal perspective on his country’s culinary tradition.
Q – What is your favourite Dominican dish (to eat)?
GP – Yuca or tubers with queso frito, because this food brings me closer to the Taínos. I love morir soñando for being such a succulent and balanced drink (the acid and base neutralise when combined) and for having such a poetic name. I also love habichuelas con dulce with a passion, because they are so exotic and delicious.
Q – What is your favourite dish (to cook)?
GP – Fish in coconut sauce.
Q – Do you have any tip or secret to share?
GP – The coconut must be fresh, not tinned.
Q – Is there any childhood memory associated with food, and has it influenced your work in any way?
GP – As a child, I never liked moro, and in one of my paintings on domestic violence the husband attacked his wife because he didn’t like moro.
Q – How do you manage to keep the traditions living away from the DR? Is it easy to find all the ingredients you need?
GP – Living in New York, a city with a large Dominican community, means I can find most products here.
Q – Do your wife and children like Dominican food or do they prefer Mexican or American food?
GP – My family has spent a lot of time in both places, which has given their palate such diversity – they enjoy tostones and tacos with the same enthusiasm. American food hasn’t had that much of an impact on them; they prefer food from other cultures like pizza or sushi.
Q – Do you consider traditional food as a way of maintaining a cultural link with your country of birth?
GP – Yes, that’s why a way of promoting our food is to give our guests the option of choosing between Mexican and Dominican food. Some of them, including Mexicans, now have recurring dreams of eating queso frito and tubers.
German Perez is a Dominican-born visual artist who has lived in New York City since the 1980s. Before moving to the United States he was a leading figure in the national art scene, representing the Dominican Republic at several international biennials.
Described by Mikhail Baryshnikov as “the Caribbean Chagall”, German has held 28 individual exhibitions in places that include Brazil, Panama, New York, Los Angeles and Brussels. His work has been selected for public collections like AT&T as well as private collections, including Mikhail Baryshnikov’s, and he has illustrated books by authors like Julia álvarez.
German’s paintings reflect his country’s search for an identity and have led him to research and study the roots that make up part of his cultural heritage, especially the black African influence and his island’s native Taino roots, which has had a permanent influence on his artistic work.
His love for music inspired his current project – Vuelta a Africa, a selection of recordings with which he seeks to celebrate the African heritage of the peoples of the Caribbean, especially the Dominican Republic.
German Perez lives in New York City with his wife, Mexican-born journalist Maria Hinojosa, and their son Raul and daughter Yurema.
More recently, German has been named the official artist of the 2012 Latin GRAMMY Awards®.
Photo provided by German Perez.