I have become a chocolate snob. A warm buttery waft of cocoa tempts me round the corner of the Northbridge Piazza. San Churro, the chocolateria promises all sort of good things in chocolate on its menu, but I’ve not ventured in as yet. You see, I’ve sampled the real thing – homemade Latin-American-style hot chocolate brewed from such brands as Rexim and Blooker. I’ve sampled the flavours of Colombia, Venezuela and Nicaragua in Willie’s cacao blocks sold at Kakulas. These heady concoctions are but my first taste of latino Western Australia. Conclusion 1: Cocoa is truly is the nectar of the gods.
I came to Australia expecting to see England with a few kangaroos and koalas on the side. It amazes me to find so much of South America here instead. Further down James Street, strains of Spanish music spill out of Guzman y Gomez, a Mexican taqueria. The supermarkets sell El Paso taco-making kits and the local coffee shop has bean-filled burritos. Conclusion 2: they really like Mexican food here.
Then there are the dances – I can now tell a merengue from a salsa (no, these are not names for food) and a bachata from a champeta (some things are better left unexplored). A local bar offers salsa on Thursday nights, but if you’ve been reading my blog, you know that the less said about dancing the better. The rhythms are irresistible though, and some nights I draw the blinds and try the steps with YouTube lessons. Maybe someday….Conclusion 3: Dreamer.
I’m truly impressed and touched by the warmth of Latin hospitality and the friendship extended by people from various corners of the Spanish speaking world living in Western Australia – Colombia and Peru, Chile and Ecuador, Mexico and Argentina. Here are homes where I have learnt to cook arepas with Harina P.A.N. (corn meal) and eat changua, while listening tongue-tied to Spanish chatter. The clear tones of Argentina are easy to follow, but I struggle to decipher the fluid accents of Chile. Here are countries where to be “Indian” means something else. Yes…I’m Indian. No, from India – yes, we do look South American. Or perhaps it’s the South Americans who look Indian? No? My apologies.
There is a sense of family and fellowship that reminds me, achingly, of people back home. There is an openness that I think of as purely Australian. There is a love of soccer that only a South American can understand. Why don’t they play cricket? Just joking, of course.
A few days ago, I lit candles to celebrate the Advent season in the style of Colombia’s Dia de Las Velitas. As I watch the tealights flicker to the tune of “El Burrito de Belen,” I celebrate the cultural pluralism of nation to which I belong and the multiculturalism of the land I live in. I came here expecting to see a half-forgotten corner of England. Who would have thought I’d find a Latin Australia instead?