Author: Ray Herras
My name is Ray Herras and I am a first year SIPA student in the Master of International Affairs program in International Security Policy with specialization in Technology, Media, and Communications. What you may not know is that I am a first generation, Filipino American, with a Filipino, Spanish, and Chinese heritage. In this essay I will focus on my travels around the world where I have experienced first-hand Chinese influence in the areas of food and culture.
United Kingdom. In 2007, I visited the United Kingdom and spent two weeks in England and Scotland. I met up with an old friend who decided to take me to London’s Chinatown which made me feel like I was in Asia. It amazed me the number of Chinese Britons who frequented all the restaurants and shops. In Edinburgh, Scotland, my friends and I had drove up from London Stansted airport on the M1. Once we arrived at our accommodation were tired and decided to walk around to get something to eat. Lo and behold, we found a Scottish Chinese restaurant open at 10pm at night. I ordered my Pork Fried rice and the person behind the counter looked Chinese but spoke with such a strong Scottish accent that I laughed because it was not expected.
Peru. In 2011, I traveled to Lima for my friends Alejandra and Danny’s wedding. Alejandra hailed from Lima and suggested I check out some of the places in Miraflores and Barranco. Walking around Lima, I found “Chifa” which is Peruvian for “China.”. The number of Peruvians I saw with Chinese ethnicity surprised me greatly. And yes, I did sample some local Peruvian Chifa food. Egg Drop Soup and Shrimp Fried Rice had more of a local flavor which was very savory.
United States. I have been to the Chinatowns in Los Angeles, New York, Washington DC, and San Francisco. They are all very diverse Chinese communities and sometimes you’ll feel like you are in China (although my only reference is movies and television). From the signage to the old folks playing mahjong and dominoes, it reminds me somewhat of my experiences as a kid in a Filipino American family. In all those Chinatowns, I could tell they were very family centric with generations of Chinese restaurant owners employing many of their family and extended families.
SIPA. At SIPA there have been several cultural events sponsored by numerous student organizations including the Asia Pacific Affairs Council and the Greater China Initiative. The cultural events they have facilitated since I have been here has given me a stronger interest in learning about my Chinese identity.
In closing, my travels around the world have given me an opportunity to see Chinese culture and food both at home and abroad. I would like to see closer cultural ties between the U.S. and China that will mutually benefit both our countries that will enhance this unique relationship. Traveling to China is on my bucket list but for now, I will continue to engage with my Chinese Seeples to learn more about Chinese culture and more about my part-Chinese identity. My learning continues.