Domitilia Clemente was born and raised in the small town of Ocumichu, Michoacán, Mexico. As a child, she began helping her mother in the kitchen, preparing numerous traditional dishes to celebrate special occasions such as the celebrations of saints (Fiesta de San Pedro, Cristo Rey, Virgen de Guadalupe), as well as to celebrate weddings, baptisms, and other special family gatherings. As she grew, her mother gave her more responsibility, and eventually Domitilia perfected her food-making knowledge and skills. Since relocating to the Eastern Coachella Valley in 1999, Domitilia continues to prepare traditional foods, such as corundas, churipo, huchepos, lacatamales, black atole, anise atole, and chilacayote empanadas, for her family and community.
Of the importance of traditional food preparation to herself, her family, and her community, Domitilia says, “Food is one of the ways to identify where we come from and what is important to us. By continuing to prepare traditional food, we teach our children our traditions and keep our culture alive. I remember how my grandmother and my mother would cook together; it was a time where they shared experiences and conversed in their Purepecha language, and often they would also play pirecuas [traditional music from Michoacán sung in Purepecha]. Those memories are fresh in my mind when I get together with my sister and niece to cook. Maintaining our traditional recipes is a way to keep alive our memories and stories of our hometown.”
Domitilia is a current master artist in ACTA’s Apprenticeship Program. She will work with her niece and apprentice Josefina Mulato, teaching her how to prepare traditional Purepecha dishes.