The city was selected the Ibero-American Capital of Gastronomic Culture for 2016, for its history, dynamism, and excellent culinary traditions.
By J.M. Towers
Last year the Mexican city of Guanajuato was declared the capital of Latin American Gastronomic Culture. This year, the title goes to the Spanish city of Mérida in Extremadura.
Mérida, Spain, shares a long history with the rest of Latin America. Several of the Spanish men who conquered the Americas came from Extremadura—Francisco Pizarro, Hernán Cortés, Francisco de Orellana or Vasco Núñez de Balboa.
Throughout this year, the culinary essences of Extremadura and Latin America will come together in Mérida, a city gently caressed by the waters of the Guadiana River and declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The cuisine from Extremadura shows great tradition and excellence. The region is famous for what is arguably the best Iberian ham—known as pata negra—made from the dry cured legs of free range white hogs that feed on the acorns that fall from holm oak trees.
Other delightful fancies that can only be found in Extremadura include cheeses from La Serena, delicious Retinta steaks, cherries from the Jerte Valley, the cavas, and fine olive oils.
Known as Spain’s red gold, the Pimentón de la Vera (a Spanish type of paprika) has a velvety texture and delicate aroma that provides a unique flavor to many regional dishes, such as garlic soup, migas, lamb stew, and sausages.
Founded by Emperor Octavian Augustus in 25 b.C. to host the veterans of the Cantabrian Wars, the city’s original name was Emerita Augusta. Today, Mérida exudes history in every corner, street, and square. As you stroll the city, you will often encounter stunning testimonials of a glorious past as Mérida boasts some of the most impressive Roman monuments in all of Spain.
Mérida’s fine restaurants will wear their best colors throughout the year. Featuring local and international dishes, the city is ready to entertain a large number of visitors and a vast array of events taking place within the framework of its status as the center of Ibero-American gastronomy.
Also, the city has an interesting program of activities that promotes the local and regional culture and heritage. Several festivals will be organized in the most emblematic venues like the Roman Theatre, where visitors can enjoy amazing tapas, accompanied by craft beers brewed in the area.
Mérida will celebrate educational events such as the meeting of Spain’s 17 Schools of Gastronomy, under the auspices of the Spanish Royal Academy of Gastronomy and the Forum of Iberoamerican Tourism, a group of journalists and travel press associations in Ibero América.
Additionally, the city will also host more than two hundred Spanish and Latin American winemakers, who will participate in the XVII National Congress of Enology.
Merida is celebrating: don’t miss the fun! ■
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