Terry Padilla and “Latin American Foods”: Family, Survival, and Food

Born and raised in Managua, Nicaragua, Terry moved to Miami as a teen where she attended the Coral Gables High School. She graduated from the University of Florida’s School of Journalism & Communications earning a bachelor’s degree in Advertising with a minor in Business Administration. With twenty years of experience in the pharmaceutical, biotech, and medical device sales industries, Padilla decided to embark on the journey of writing and publishing her own book: “Latin American Foods”.

Padilla took inspiration from her own multi-cultural background, from her experiences living in Central America and now in Miami, where she currently resides with her husband and two sons.

As the book was nearing completion, life for many changed dramatically! Hurricanes Irma and Maria hit Florida, the Caribbean and, tragically Puerto Rico. These hurricanes inspired Terry to rewrite the story and incorporate a fictional family, Jose and Maria Garcia and their son Carlos, who owned a bed and breakfast in Puerto Rico. In the story, Maria Garcia is originally from Cuba and she loves cooking traditional dishes.

Padilla’s children’s book follows the journey of the Garcia family as they are forced to leave their homeland of Puerto Rico due to the devastation caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. The family relocates to Orlando, and as they adjust to the many changes in their lives, the Garcia family embraces their native Latin culture.

Speaking with Padilla, it is clear how very important family is in her life. “When faced with unexpected challenges, one’s first reaction is usually to hold onto what’s dear to them,” said Padilla. “I wanted to emphasize the closeness of family and how the Garcia’s took comfort in the culinary experiences of their native Latin culture as they embarked on their new life in America.”

While growing up in Managua, Padilla witnessed people living in very adverse situations. Those images are still fresh in her mind today and provided additional inspiration for her book.

“Basic necessities such as water, food, and shelter, should never be taken for granted,” said Padilla. “And Hurricanes Irma, Maria and Harvey were a reminder to all of us of how important these basic necessities are to one’s survival.”

“Latin American Foods” was illustrated by Tony Mendoza, a Cuban-American artist who Terry had met a few years ago while attending the Coconut Grove Art Festival. She was so impressed by his work that she immediately asked him to illustrate her book with the hope that her words combined with his whimsical illustrations would offer youngsters easy to understand descriptions of some of the dishes that both of them had been intimately familiar with since childhood.

Terry remembers the time when she asked Tony to draw a beautiful, colorful rooster with wild feathers and have the rooster painting. While puzzled by the request, Tony complied, creating Terry’s favorite illustration that represents a dish she fondly remembers eating as a child growing up in Nicaragua, Gallo Pinto (rice and beans). She wanted to depict the rooster painting because gallo means rooster and pinto is a spotted rooster.

“Latin American Foods” is dedicated to her husband Ivan, a fantastic cook and her father, who was the Secretary of Agriculture in Nicaragua during the 1970s.

The book is available for $12.95 paperback and $7.99 Kindle on Amazon and Barnes and Nobles.