Tracy Lopez: National Pupusa Day Comes to US

This Sunday, November 13, plan a trip to your favorite local Salvadoran restaurant because it's the best day of the year for those of us wanting an excuse to eat pupusas – it's National Pupusa Day.

Every second Sunday of November marks Día Nacional de la Pupusa in El Salvador – but that doesn't stop those of us in the United States from joining in on the celebration.  My family has the day marked on the calendar – after all, Americans celebrate Cinco de Mayo, Oktoberfest, St. Patrick's Day and any other excuse to eat.

I could argue that my husband is Salvadoran, which gives me a valid excuse to recognize the holiday, but these days it seems like everyone knows and loves pupusas – the thick patties that at first glance look like corn tortillas but, upon closer inspection, are usually oozing cheese.

When split open, pupusas can reveal  a combination of ingredients, with, among the most popular, Quesillo cheese, beans, chicharrón, and the green bud of an edible flower called "loroco" – which tastes similar to broccoli or asparagus.

Cooked on a "comal" (or griddle), pupusas can also be made of rice flour and include fillings such as shrimp, squash and chicken, among other less traditional variations. Eaten with the hands, pupusas are always accompanied by fermented cabbage salad called "curtido" and a thin, mild salsa.

Thanks to the large population of Salvadorans in the United States, pupuserías can be found on street corners in cities from Los Angeles, California to Arlington, Virginia – and the non-Salvadoran locals who frequent these restaurants aren't shy about professing their pupusa love.

Take, for example, the used car salesman we met over the summer: Needing a new car, Carlos and I found ourselves at a local dealership. During negotiations we excused ourselves to discuss the price privately. The Anglo salesman waited nearby as we conversed in Spanish.

When we had finished discussing, the salesman asked, "Were you speaking Spanish? Where are you from?"

"I was born and raised here, and Carlos is from El Salvador," I answered.

In the past, previous interactions like this have ended with the person either having no clue where El Salvador is, or with the individual saying they remember the civil war that happened there and then asking if it's still dangerous. Deviations from these two possibilities have been rare, so the car salesman's response surprised me.

"El Salvador?!" the salesman replied enthusiastically. "I love El Salvador!"

You can't blame me for thinking that maybe he was just trying to make a sale by feigning excitement over Carlos's native country, so I eyed him suspiciously.

"You've been to El Salvador?" I asked.

"No," he answered, rubbing his stomach and licking his lips, "but I love me some pupusas!"

So, while Salvadorans in El Salvador celebrate with the annual making of the world's largest pupusa, Salvadorans in the United States – as well as people of all backgrounds, including your local Anglo car salesman – may very well be celebrating with a few pupusas for dinner.

Tracy López is a bilingual writer living outside the DC Metro area and the founder of

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