The Resistance potluck: “Together we are a force”

In the Cerro Las Perdices area in Valparaíso, Chile, the La Resistencia (The Resistance) potluck organization shares food with 120 neighbors. A gesture of solidarity, generosity and love that builds a stronger community.

“My grandma used to say that cooking is a sacred act. I believe that it is so for any women on Earth, particularly when we talk about breadmaking because when you make bread, you leave a part of your life in it. So, in this potluck, we started by making a few loafs of bread for our neighbors… it’s like the feedback of cooking,” says Rossana Huenufil, leader of both the La Resistencia potluck and the Mapuche community in the Cerro Las Perdices area in Valparaíso, Chile.

During the first months of the pandemic, Rossana, professional cook, lost her job. To reduce her expenses, she started cooking with her neighbors. “We realized that even though we had food to eat, many of our neighbors didn’t. We started cooking four extra meals to offer them through our social media. Moments later we checked our inbox trays and we found between 30 and 40 messages of people asking for them. This is something that breaks your heart, as a mother, as a daughter, as a person. So, we gathered everything we had left and decided to cook 20 additional meals, which in a period of one week became 120 meals,” explains Rossana.

“It was difficult to discover that there were abandoned grandparents in our neighborhood, abandoned by a system that has not been noble to them, that there were middle-class people who didn’t have any food either, and that misery is even harder to discover because they hung out at the corner of my block and then they turn around and went back because they were embarrassed to come for the food. Over time we began understanding how to engage them, we learned how to build a stronger community with all our neighbors,” states Rossana.

The meals became people and the people became stories. “It’s not just the meal, it’s the gesture. Maybe it was only a loaf of bread, but the important part is the act of supporting with them, asking them how they are and how they feel,” says Rossana.

The potluck operates all week long thanks to the work of five people and to the donations given by neighbors and their friends, and by private companies like Grupo Nutresa and its subsidiary company Tresmontes Lucchetti, which specializes in the production of pasta and sauce products. “Most of the resources we used to start this potluck came from people who were able to keep working and that, at the end of the month, understand that not everyone can do so, which is why they donate part of their salary. In our case, we contribute with our labor, which is a full-time job that other people help to fund,” relates Pancracia Martínez, member of the La Resistencia potluck team.

Rossana and the team that makes this potluck possible dedicate their life to this exercise of solidarity. They are a family that feeds on the love, cooperation and harmony they receive as reward for what they do for their neighborhood. At the end of the day, with the satisfaction of having served many people, they share the most significant moment: “Part of the process of building a community has to do with how we nourish ourselves together, how we share a table, how we talk to each other, how we laugh together, how we cry together and how we embrace life. This is the way we give thanks, to each other, to the people who help us and to God. Every day we end up having lunch together,” tells Rossana.

More than 200 potlucks were organized in Valparaíso, Chile, in 2020. These communal meal organizations not only satisfy the nourishment needs of the neighbors, but also their sanitary and emotional contention needs.

“You fall in love with cooking, with the colors, smells and, most of all, you fall in love with the fact that you are helping others to stay alive through the immense love you put into a meal.”

Rossana Huenufil, leader of both the La Resistencia potluck and the Mapuche community in the Cerro Las Perdices area in Valparaíso, Chile.

“We have been extremely blessed because the Santiago Wanderers Corporation came here to deliver the donation made by Tresmontes Lucchetti, and with gestures like that one is how we have been able to maintain the potluck, with generous donations. Tresmontes Lucchetti has made 6 or 7 donations that have filled our pantries with large amounts of noodles and sauce, which are great because we can use them for many different preparations. We are incredibly grateful!”

Rossana Huenufil, leader of both the La Resistencia potluck and the Mapuche community in the Cerro Las Perdices area in Valparaíso, Chile.