Pasteles in Paris: Tradition and the Promise of the Next Generation

For many years our extended family (four different families of friends) has been getting together during the holiday season to cook “pasteles,” a traditional Puerto Rican dish. Pasteles are akin to tamales, but made from a dough of yautia, green bananas, and plantains that is stuffed with savory ground beef and pork. The process takes all day, but no one will miss the occasion.

Each year, the now adult children from the involved families fly from as far away as San Francisco, New York, and Chicago to converge in Massachusetts. Some now bring their own children. It is a tradition full of laughter, memories, hope, and love. This year was different. My family had the opportunity to spend two weeks in Europe. To the chagrin of our friends, and although it was a difficult decision, we decided to go.

On Christmas Eve, we were in Paris, wondering what our friends in Massachusetts were doing. Suddenly, our younger son, Alejandro, and his partner, Erin, announced that they had a surprise. First, they produced a video documenting their own West Coast, San Francisco, challenge to the East Coast pasteles-making experience of those back at home in the States. They recruited neighbors and the daughter of one of our friends. It was hilarious. Next, they surprised us by serving pasteles that they had somehow brought to Paris all the way from San Francisco.

The friendly competition between East and West, old and young, requires that I state that the pasteles did not look as good or taste quite like those of the experienced East Coast contingent, but the fact is that they were the best dinner we could have wished for. They connected us with the family thousands of miles away. They preserved a tradition, and most importantly, they represented the passing of a torch and the assurance that the future of the tradition, and everything else, is secure with the next generation. The experience (and taste) may have been slightly different, but still with the right mix of laughter, hope, and love.

The Georgia Tech family is also entering a period of change and transition. In the future, a different group will be doing the cooking. Although we are entering an era of new leadership, I am confident the basic formula will not change: The focus on excellence and the commitment to progress and service will remain the same. The recipe may differ slightly, but basic objectives and goals will endure and, like our tradition of making and experiencing pasteles, Georgia Tech’s future is assured and will only get better under a new generation of leaders.

-Rafael L. Bras

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