Puerto Rican Food Historian Cruz Miguel Ortíz Cuadra Has Died

The culinary community of Puerto Rico is mourning the loss of a passionate advocate after historian and educator Cruz Miguel Ortíz Cuadra passed away on March 8 in San Juan. His brother Carlos Ortíz Cuadra noted, via the New York Times, that the 67-year-old gastronomy expert was in remission after battling lung cancer and had recently suffered from a heart attack. He is survived by his wife, Anita Gonzalez, and his five siblings.

Although he was born in Georgia, Ortíz Cuadra grew up in Puerto Rico, where his mother instilled a love of traditional island fare from an early age. His interest was piqued and then further developed after attending a culinary seminar in Oxford, England, while studying at Ruskin College. It was an experience that made him consider the importance and implications of a culture's cuisine, and he went on to write his dissertation on Puerto Rico's historical gastronomy once he returned to San Juan to earn his doctorate from the University of Puerto Rico.

Ortíz Cuadra's dissertation laid the foundation for his first book, "Eating Puerto Rico: A History of Food, Culture, and Identity," regarded as one of the most prominent and extensive text on the culinary history of Puerto Rican gastronomy. It was the beginning of a lifetime of work dedicated to discovering and sharing the unique island's rich culinary past that also helped shape its gastronomical future.

Ortíz Cuadra generously shared his passion for food history

Cruz Miguel Ortíz Cuadra's passion for Puerto Rican cuisine inspired him to become an educator and advocate for the island's culinary history through multiple mediums. His extensive research shaped Puerto Rico's gastronomy by defining and linking specific ingredients exclusive to the island's traditional fare and teaching generations of people about the importance of their culinary history.

Ortíz Cuadra shared his knowledge of the cultural significance of food history by continuing to write books focusing on the effects of globalization on Puerto Rican cuisine. He informed others about the origins of Puerto Rican ingredients that endured throughout centuries and resulted from colonization, inclement weather, and farming challenges on the archipelago. He led a project that called for roasted pork to be named a heritage food and noted the important difference between bananas and plantains used in Puerto Rico's signature dish, mofongo. He went on to host a podcast and numerous speaking engagements on top of becoming a revered professor of humanities at the University of Puerto Rico.

Cruz Miguel Ortíz Cuadra was an instrumental figure in giving shape and depth to Puerto Rico's cuisine. As an educator, author, culinary historian, and advocate for culinary history, he single-handedly enriched an entire culture with his life's work that will not be forgotten.