EDINBURG – Tucked away in the corner of the third floor of the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) library is the Border Studies Archive.
The art work on the walls signifies the archive is nearing, but last Thursday afternoon the nose was used to find the place.
The aroma of chocolate over powered the other scents, but make no mistake it smelled great entering the archive.
Dr. Margaret Dorsey, founding curator of the Border Studies Archive, was walking around the archive making sure the mole contest was running without any hiccups. Fourteen competitors from the area entered with hopes their mole recipe was the best.
Judging the contest were three local chefs: Adam Cavazos (Bodega), Nadia Casaperalta (Salt) and Dennis Gonzalez (El Patio on Guerra) plus the people in the standing-room only contest.
Maria Luisa Gonzalez had a green and a brown mole in the contest. For her efforts in the green mole the Edinburg resident picked up first place.
“I feel proud (for winning) because I present the Huasteca Potosina (traditions) to these contests and it is the third time I've won at here,” Gonzalez said in Spanish.
Gonzalez's background in the kitchen is traditional. Since about the age of eight she would cook with her grandmother and her family. For the past 10 years Gonzalez has been with Costa Mesa in McAllen.
Her recipe for the brown mole has been in her family for years. It consists of chile guajillo, chile ancho, chile de arbol, banana, raisins, nuts, chocolates and a few other things that are secret.
Her green mole included tomatillo, poblano, cilantro and lettuce.
“Mostly all the ingredients are green,” Gonzalez said.
There was also a toasted bolillo and a toastada of sesame seed.
For mole Huasteca Gonzalez said it is usually cooked with chicken but rabbit, deer and pork are also options.
Gonzalez took pride of course for her victory in the contest but also for the standing-room only contest.
“The tradition continues even though generations evolve and we still conserve our traditions,” she said. “We want our children and grandchildren to continue to conserve our traditions.”
Gonzalez admits her children have taken to more American dishes and more often than not they do not partake in traditional Mexican food like mole but her husband loves it. Her daughter for instance cooks food she sees on the internet but Gonzalez said she makes good food.
This is the first time the Border Studies Archive has hosted a food competition as UTRGV. They have held two other competitions when the institution was the University of Texas Pan American.
Dorsey said the purpose of having these competitions is to draw attention to the collection of traditional Mexican-American folklore.
“What we found in the past with these food contests it brought people in all over from South Texas,” she said. “Usually we have people from four different counties and many of the people here (at the contest) are Spanish speaking.”
Part of the mission of the Border Studies Archive is to be on par with the bilingual component of UTRGV. Their website is offered in Spanish and English.
While there was only one winner of the contest, all of the recipes were collected and added to the permanent collection of recipes at the archive. Dorsey said the archive has approximately 70 mole recipes at the moment but they collect all recipes because they are all different.
The Border Studies Archive has roughly 100,000 entries. With recipes alone they have more than 1,000 covering all sorts of dishes. The main intent is to collect the oral history, traditions, the song, the stories and the life-ways of the people of the Rio Grande Valley.
That is the emphasis I have,” Dorsey said. “While universities are focused on the written word, I think it is important, but the oral word is central to our culture so it is not as textually oriented as most library archives.”