Loraine Segovia Paz

Loraine Segovia Paz
Dish: Salteñas
Roots: Bolivia / Peru
Cooking in Nashville since 2001

Loraine Segovia-Paz has operated her own empanada business, Casa Segovia-Paz, since 2013. Though she went to college for accounting and has worked in jobs as varied as starting a Hispanic newspaper, making empanadas is her passion since it helps bridge her home here in the Southeastern U.S., with her true home in South America.

Loraine was born in Peru, where her father was from, but spent much of her youth in Bolivia, where her mother was from. Her parents met in Peru. "At that time, my father was working for my grandfather as a journalist. My mother ended up coming back to [Peru] from the USA, because my grandfather had fled from Chile into Peru, due to the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile, and before that, from Bolivia to Chile because of the Banzer dictatorship in Bolivia," she explains. “Now, I hold these three citizenships—Bolivia, Peru, and the U.S.—and I am part of all three of these countries. They are pieces of me,” she says.

When she was 15, during a particularly dangerous time in Bolivia, she, her mother, and her twin brother went to Peru to live in Andahuaylas, leaving her grandfather, Nivaldo Paz Arze, behind. But Loraine’s mother, Magda, couldn’t find a job. So, she and her children started their own business selling salteñas. Like empanadas, salteñas are a handheld item made up of flaky dough and a filling—but the dough for salteñas is very sturdy and the filling is juicy. Often, they’re filled with meat as well as olives, raisins, boiled eggs, or peanuts.

"After school, we would make the salteñas and then I would go out and sell them,” Loraine says. “I remember that I would go and sell them at different banks and usually the guys, they didn't know that the salteñas were juicy. And I always warned them and said, 'you know, you have to be careful because they've very, very juicy.' When you eat them, you have to drink, literally, the juice. And they didn't listen, so pretty much they spilled the whole thing... but they were always happy and they always liked the flavor."

Making them was a challenge, she adds—the dough was hard to work with and learning to cook didn’t come easy for Loraine. Meanwhile, they were living in difficult times. There was an economic crisis happening in Peru, which made flour scarce. The family would often have to wait for a shipment from Argentina. They worked out of their tiny, fourth floor condo kitchen, her family creating an assembly line to craft each pocket of dough.

But those memories, says Loraine, are what tie her back to her mother.

Loraine’s mother has passed on, which is why Loraine cherishes this handwritten recipe for salteñas. She discovered it earlier this year when she learned that her great grandaunt, the sister of her grandfather, who still lives in Peru, was holding onto it. A friend helped get it back into Loraine’s hands and she cried when she received it.

Here in Nashville, Loraine has built her empanadas business as a way to bring her roots to life in her new hometown—but it also calls back the lessons she learned from Magda, who taught her to be resourceful and take initiative, no matter what challenges she’s facing.

Dirty Pages Loraine Segovia Paz recipe
After school, we would make the salteñas and then I would go out and sell them. I remember that I would go and sell them at different banks and usually the guys, they didn’t know that the salteñas were juicy. And I always warned them and said, “you know, you have to be careful because they’re very, very juicy.” When you eat them, you have to drink, literally, the juice. And they didn’t listen, so pretty much they spilled the whole thing... but they were always happy and they always liked the flavor. And that truly made me happy.
— Loraine Segovia Paz
Tabitha