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Food is at the Heart of 12th Annual Tomás Rivera Conference at UCR


Food is at the Heart of 12th Annual Tomás Rivera Conference at UCR

(February 12, 1999)

The magical and culture-shaping qualities of food will be examined at the 12th annual Tomás Rivera Conference, Friday, April 23 at the University of California, Riverside.

"Culturas y Comidas: Gifts of the Americas," is the theme of this year's conference honoring the memory of Rivera, UCR chancellor from 1979 to 1984 and a leading Chicano writer who paved the way for Chicanos and Latinos in American higher education.

Keynote speaker John Rivera Sedlar, dubbed "the father of modern Southwest cuisine" by the nation's top food writers, is a classically trained chef working as a restaurant consultant in the Los Angeles area. He is the author of "Modern Southwest Cuisine" and the co-author of "Tamales."

Sedlar’s specialty, a six-foot long "zacahuil" tamale, will be served at the conference. Sedlar was the youngest chef ever to win the Silver Spoon Award from Food Arts Magazine. He was also among the Top 10 Chefs in America at the First Annual Culinary Arts Hall of Fame Awards.

Past conferences have addressed topics such as politics, feminism, education, immigration and music. "Each year we have highlighted an issue of importance to the Chicano/Latino community," said Robert Nava, conference organizer and assistant vice-chancellor of governmental and community relations. "This year we will examine all the interesting facets of food."

Films such as "Agua para Chocolate" (Like Water for Chocolate) based on Laura Esquivel's novel about the magical and emotional qualities of food, are one part of food's cultural significance," according to Carlos Vélez-Ibáñez, dean of the College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences. Political implications include the shift from corn to wheat production in the Southwest United States that provided staples for expansion and land encroachment by silver miners and cattle ranchers.

"The topic of food is limitless and of extreme human importance," said Vélez-Ibáñez. "The migrant stream was not about folks floating down river, but rather following the 'pisca' of grapes, apples, strawberries, oranges and all the other foodstuffs our populations have been very much responsible for introducing and producing." The conference will be held in the Commons, Terrace rooms A through D, with panels called "Food and Culture," "Food and Health," and "Food and Politics." Press-Enterprise Food Editor Orlando Ramirez will chair one of the panels. Victor Valle, author of "Recipe of Memory," and a professor at California State University, San Luis Obispo, is another confirmed panelist.

At an evening banquet, Concha Rivera, Rivera's widow, will present scholarship awards to students, including a new scholarship fund she recently endowed. She will also honor Jim Erickson, the vice-chancellor for university advancement, for his active support in the cause of opening higher education to people of all ethnic backgrounds.

Honorees in past years have included former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Henry Cisneros; former California Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso; and pioneering Mexican-American folk singer and activist Lalo Guerrero.

Registration begins at 8 a.m. with the keynote speech at 9:30 a.m. and sessions continuing until 4 p.m. A conference reception will begin at 6 p.m. with dinner at 7 p.m. in the Commons Dining Room.

General admission to the conference alone is $20 per person; admission to the banquet alone is $35; admission to both is $50. Full-time students from any school or university will be admitted free to the conference and to the banquet for $20. The registration deadline is Friday, April 18. For more information, call the Office of Governmental & Community Relations at (909) 787-5184.


The University of California, Riverside (www.ucr.edu) is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

A broadcast studio with fiber cable to the AT&T Hollywood hub is available for live or taped interviews. UCR also has ISDN for radio interviews. To learn more, call (951) UCR-NEWS.

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