Miles Morales and his mom Rio just moved into a new apartment in Harlem. There’s still a lot to unpack in their rooms, and you can learn so much about them by looking around and examining their possessions. But the living room and kitchen are all put together, and Rio is going all-out to prepare a big Christmas dinner for herself, Miles, and a few family friends. It’s a heartwarming scene where you have to do a few chores like put on some music, light the Christmas tree, and make sure Ganke cleans up the damn mess he made spilling soup on the rug. What’s most important here is that it’s a rich display of culture, language, and food that celebrates the Morales’ Puerto Rican heritage.
Anyone who has played Spider-Man: Miles Morales will remember this part of the game–not necessarily for the fact that Miles has to get the power back on by using his Spidey skills while no one’s looking, but because it draws you into a cozy winter vibe of a snow-covered New York City. It’s a powerful moment of character building–you hear Miles and Rio speak Spanish to each other and you can see the Puerto Rican cuisine prepared and being cooked. It’s an invitation to see Miles’ Boricua roots first hand, and a striking piece of representation for those who share Boricua roots or relate through other Latin-American cultures, all over a nice dinner for the holidays. And for me, after I spoke to my mom to let her know I couldn’t come home for Christmas this year, these moments in the game became much more bittersweet.
As I walked through that scene, it reminded me of home and my mom, a reflection of the 20-plus years in the past I spent with her during Christmastime. Rio is on the phone speaking Spanish while she’s cooking, just like how my mom would talk chismis in Tagalog over the phone with my aunties, acting like I wouldn’t understand what she was saying. Some of the food you see on the counter and being cooked closely resembles Filipino dishes I always had growing up, too.