Fiesta Fridays! 2007

NOTE:  Fiesta Fridays is a special series to highlight the many memories I have of Fiesta through the photographs I’ve taken since 2003.

The Blue Demon Luchador makes his first appearance at Fiesta in 2007!

Fiesta 2007 brought several new additions to the event.  It was our 5th anniversary so everyone involved was so excited that we had made it this far!  It also turned out to be one of our biggest years ever with over 20K people attending!  I was board president that year and the board members and volunteers seemed to be settling into a great rhythm with the planning and engaging both the English and Spanish-speaking communities.  This was also the year we went out on a “so-called” limb and decided the time was right for wrestling!!!

Our presenting sponsor – Coca Cola – had just launched a new energy drink called Full Throttle Blue Demon and had acquired Mexican luchador (wrestler) Blue Demon, Jr. to help with promotions in Mexico. The board was having a meeting several months before our 2007 Fiesta event when we started discussing new aspects of our event.   Lucha Libre was mentioned and board member, Mike Suco (with Coca Cola) brought up Blue Demon.  Things took off quickly from there and before you knew it, we had Blue Demon making a weekend appearance in Alabama and we had also partnered with Wrestle Birmingham to bring a ring and local wrestlers to Fiesta!  The ring was set up right next to the Coca Cola Main Stage and the crowd that gathered was incredible!  I remember standing on the main stage and getting some pretty awesome photos of the wrestling matches!  The crowd that gathered that year was incredible!

Blue Demon made a return appearance in 2008 to huge crowds.  He was definitely popular!  The current Fiesta board is looking at bringing wrestling or Lucha Libre, back to Fiesta for our 15th anniversary celebration.  Fingers crossed it works out!  I would love to see all that excitement once again at our event!

Antonio Sacre, storyteller, performer and author, makes his first appearance at Fiesta in 2007 in the Storytelling Village.

Fiesta also created a new village in 2007 – the Storytelling Village.  We were lucky enough to find Antonio Sacre, a storyteller, performer and author of Irish-Cuban descent to highlight the village.  And let me tell you, he not only highlighted the Storytelling Village…he ended up highlighting the entire festival!!!  He didn’t just stay in one part of Linn Park that day!  He was all over the place, finding opportunities to tell stories in the cultural village, on the main stage and just lend his all around good nature and great stories to the delight of the many guests that day at Fiesta!  No group was too small or too large for Antonio!

The Storytelling Village itself was such a great set up…we had beanbag chairs for kids to relax in and hear stories read to them by UAB college students.  The Birmingham Public Library also partnered with us to make this village come alive.  Bilingual books were donated so kids got to read, hear the books read, and then go home with one to enjoy!  Families flocked to the new village that year and seemed to really enjoy the peace and quiet offered there…away from the activity of the other areas of Fiesta but close enough to still see what was going on.

Antonio Sacre made a return visit to Fiesta in 2008 and this time he came for the entire weekend.  We arranged for him to visit several schools on Friday and he became quite the ambassador for Fiesta that year!  I know we saw an increase in family attendance from the schools visited.  I was fortunate enough to chauffeur him around that day.  And on Friday night we had a reception at the Birmingham Public Library where we heard from Antonio,  had a book signing and we also hosted several Fiesta scholarship winners.  Our local CBS news affiliate even came out to cover the event!

I have one more great memory of Antonio and the 2008 year and it is unrelated to the Fiesta event…  There was a Leonardo DaVinci exhibit at the Birmingham Museum of Art that fall.  The BMA had been a partner with Fiesta for many years so I had some tickets to the exhibit.  We had some time before the first school visit and I asked Antonio if he wanted to go.  He said “sure!”  It turned out to be such a fun few hours walking around the museum with him and listening to his thoughts on the DaVinci’s drawings and other artifacts.  It was such a treat for me to hear Antonio’s impressions through an artists’ mind.

More to come so please come back every Friday through September 30, 2017 for more behind the scenes stories of Fiesta!

Fiesta Fridays! 2003 to 2006

NOTE;  Fiesta Fridays is a special series to highlight the many memories I have of Fiesta through the photographs I’ve taken since 2003. 

Fiesta, Alabama’s largest celebration of Hispanic culture and heritage is 15 years old this year!  I’ve been spending a lot of time going through old files and photos and reliving the early years of this festival.  Getting a festival like this started was a lot of work and yet those of us who were there at the beginning really didn’t know how big this event would become – or how long it would last!  These photos and document revealed so much history and so many people involved for all these years.  As I was reliving moment through photos, I was also recalling stories and my personal thoughts.  So as we get closer to our 15th anniversary this year, I decided to begin posting a photo each Friday with a little story – I’m calling these “Fiesta Friday” photos on Facebook and Instagram.  It occurred to me though that there is more to tell about some of these photos and the people involved and the best way to do this is on my blog.

So this post will be about the photos I’ve already posted from 2003 to 2006.  There are so many photos to choose from too!  I started taking the photos at Fiesta the first year never imagining that I would become the official “unofficial” photographer of the event.  I was using film and switched to digital a few years later but these are the photos that really stick out to me of the thousands that I’ve taken.

Fiesta 2003 – My friends Lui Fernandez and Jasmine Reyes dance next to the Main Stage while Susan Daywood, Rei Ramos and Hernan Prado watch and enjoy the music!

2003 – Fiesta’s first year…  I was at the main stage – the Coca Cola main stage and found a group of friends from the Hispanic Business Council (HBC)on the side of the stage dancing and having a great time.  It was getting close to the final acts and everyone was so happy about the success of our first ever event!  We had expected about 2,000 people to come through but when the numbers were finally counted, we had about 7,000 attendees our very first year!  Overwhelming would be an appropriate word to describe our feelings that day.  I snapped this photo of Jasmine Reyes dancing with a young man.  Behind her are Susan Daywood with the City of Birmingham and a member of the HBC, Rei Ramos with the HBC and Hernan Prado, also with the HBC.  What I didn’t realize at the time is that the young man Jasmine was dancing with would become a huge part of Fiesta.  Luis “Lui” Fernandez is a current board member and has been instrumental in creating the “heart” of Fiesta – the Cultural Village.  He took it from a few posters to a group of community members excited about portraying their respective countries and sharing this information with Fiesta guests each year.  When he is in charge of something, I never worry about how it will turn out because Lui has a special talent in creating something to remember!

Fiesta 2003 – Salsa dancers on the main stage

2004 -Fiesta’s second year – This photo was taken from the Coca Cola Main Stage and is of two dancers.  They drew quite the crowd early in the day that year.  Their dancing was on point along with the DJ playing salsa music.  I was taken by the pure joy of the dance that they shared with Fiesta guests that day.  This photo was used in many of the early marketing and advertising we used of Fiesta to potential sponsors and on our website.

Entrance to the Cultural Village created by Lui Fernandez – Fiesta 2004

2004 – Another photo from Fiesta’s second year is of the entrance to the Cultural Village.  You’ve already read how much I admire and respect Lui Fernandez’s talent and this particular year, he decided to create an actual entrance to the village!  I like to say that this was the year the Cultural Village really came to life!  It was the year that music broke out all over the village and people were dancing on the sidewalk and there was always a steady crowd of people walking through to experience this community driven village.  Lui created the entrance with the logo and before the event opened, he added flags from all the Hispanic countries to the white posts which made the entrance even more colorful.  It was such a beautiful sight!

Fiesta board member – Mike Suco – helps his parents, Teresa and Ramon Suco – set up the Cuba booth in the Cultural Village in 2005.

2005 – Fiesta’s 3rd year – This is such a favorite photo of mine because it features Fiesta board member, Mike Suco with his parents – Teresa and Ramon Suco.  Mike’s mother, Teresa, found out that Cuba was NOT represented the year before in the cultural village and she was not going to let that happen that particular year!  She took it upon herself to create a beautiful Cuba booth along with her husband and as you can see in this photo – her son, Mike too!  Teresa and Ramon Suco fled Cuba under the Castro regime in 1962, shortly after they were married and came to the US not knowing the language or anyone and made a great life for themselves and their children.  Mr.Suco worked his way to District Supervisor at Big B Drugs while Teresa Suco became a Professor of Spanish at Jacksonville State University.  I remember the first year I was President of Fiesta, Mike told me his mother asked about me and wanted to make sure I was doing all right and he was helping me enough!  I always felt we had a special bond because we shared the same name.  Such lovely people…

2006 – Fiesta’s 4th year – I had been photographing Fiesta all day and was trying to head over to the VIP area to grab a quick bite to eat when I saw Cultural Village (CV) Chair, Lui Fernandez rush over to me.  He excitedly told me I needed to get to the CV stage right away and get some pictures!  Of course, I followed him right over and there on the stage were the cutest children dressed in traditional Mexican costumes dancing traditional Mexican dances!  Their faces were so sweet too!  I remember thinking they seemed so shy and yet they were smiling and dancing their little hearts out for the crowd that had gathered.  This was the year we added the CV stage and I remember there was quite a bit of activity with other dance performances and even a short play in Spanish!  I’m just so grateful that Lui saw me when he did and told me to get to the stage or I would have missed this performance.  This became one of my favorite memories of Fiesta in 2006 – seeing the sweet faces of these children and seeing my friend, Lui’s face, beaming from a distance as he watched this take place…

More to come so please come back every Friday through September 30, 2017!

A Little Miami Fusion in the Heart of Birmingham!

Luis Delgado, owner and operator of Miami Fusion Café in Downtown Birmingham, stands by the door that he refurbished for his new restaurant.

I lived in Puerto Rico from the ages 7-12, and while the island itself held many great memories growing up, the food always bring back so many vivid ones.  I remember going to our church fair and looking forward to getting bacalaitos – cod-fish fritters.  I recently had one in Birmingham and it took me directly back to the church fair when I was 9 years old.  Amazing how food can do that to you.

When I met Luis Delgado, he had his business – Miami Café – operating out of gas station in Alabaster.  I remember going to visit him with my friend, Luis Fernandez to talk to him about participating in Fiesta – Alabama’s largest Hispanic cultural event, as a food vendor.  We enjoyed an amazing lunch that day and I was completely sold on his food from that moment on.

The Miami Fusion Café sign went up in March. A nice addition to the city of Birmingham backdrop!

Fast forward to this past week…Luis has been hard at work since last October, converting the old Cameo Café in downtown Birmingham into his new Miami Fusion Café location!  I’ve been following his short Facebook videos on the progress and challenges of opening a restaurant.  He’s always so honest, and puts it all out there for you to see.  I love that about him.  Many people have been anxiously awaiting the grand opening and that will finally happen on Monday, May 22nd to the delight of many – me included!  I work within walking distance of Luis’ new location and I cannot wait to try everything on his menu!

I was fortunate to be able to attend the soft opening this past Friday.  When I arrived a little after 11 a.m., there were just a few people sitting in the restaurant enjoying their food.  I was taking photos as I entered the Café so that naturally drew a little attention.  I went to the counter and Roxie was ready to take my order and make recommendations.  I thought about going for the Roasted Port  as she suggested, but I remembered seeing a photo of a sushi roll on Facebook and I thought…now THAT’S something you don’t typically see in a Caribbean style restaurant!  So I ordered the Cuban CariMaki Roll and Roxie seemed pleased with my choice!

The yellow and red colors really pop with the art deco design reminiscent of Miami night life!

While I waited for my food, I walked around the restaurant taking photos and spent some time speaking with Luis’ mother – Maria Teresa.  She took me around and showed me some of the artwork displayed in the restaurant and told me there is more to come.  We talked about the art deco style design of the restaurant and also the colors selected.  I love the gold tones of the walls and the red accents in the booth seats.  It gives the store front a tropical vibe.  Later, when Luis was out from the kitchen, he told me and a few other patrons about how he built the bars and added the art deco embellishments by hand.  He also created the new door for the store, after which he commented…”that’s why this took so long!  I did all of this by hand!”  I told him the love and care he put into this place is so evident!  Luis also talked about how he wants to make the bar I was sitting at an active one where maybe one month he is making Cuban sandwiches so people can see how it’s done and then another month serving up ice cream with tropical flavors like tamarindo and mango.  He completely had me at tamarindo…another great memory of Puerto Rico for me!

Cuban CariMaki Roll – first time I’ve had the pleasure of trying this and it was incredible! The sweet plantain on the top was an unexpected surprise flavor!

My food arrived and all I can say is – OMG!!!!  The Cuban CariMaki roll is made with Cuban palomilla steak, tomatoes, lettuce, avocado and grilled onions.   It is topped with sweet plantains which is that surprise flavor you are not expecting when you pop one of these into your mouth!  As I was eating, people were coming into the store and trying to decide what to order and many saw my plate and walked over to have a look.  I know the roasted pork plate was popular on Friday but I do believe my oohing and aahing sold quite a few CariMaki rolls too!

In addition to the main courses, like Masitas, Mofongo and Cuban sandwiches, there are a number of sides you have to try as well.  Several people ordered the tostones, which are green plantains that have been flattened and double fried until they are golden brown with a side of mojo sauce.  Fried Yuca sticks were another favorite – also described as a Caribbean style French fry.  And don’t forget the empanadas – fried pies with your choice of chicken or beef!  I could make a meal out of empanadas alone!

Finally…if you have a bit of a sweet tooth there are some great options to try.  First, the Jesus Cake – also known as Tres Leches (Three Milks) cake and Guava pastry.  You can’t go wrong with either…which is why I got both!  I watched someone say they were just going to take a few bites of the Jesus cake and before you knew it that cake was gone!  If you like creamy desserts, this is the one for you!  The guava pastry is one of those foods that takes me back to Puerto Rico.  Very flaky crust with just a hint of sweetness.  Great with Cuban coffee!

I always love the tidbits of information you get at events like this too.  Luis talked about searching for a man named Fernando who makes the Cuban bread for him.  Fernando was doing other work but when he came to the restaurant it was clear he missed making bread and came on board.  Bread is a huge factor in making Cuban sandwiches!  My next meal at Miami Fusion Café will be a Cuban sandwich…I already know it!  Luis also has big plans for the upstairs of the restaurant with catering and events.  His mind is always twirling with ideas!

After taking a few more photos of the foods leaving the kitchen and talking to a few more patrons, it was time for me to go.  I talked again to Roxie,  who brought me a large bag so I could take my Jesus Cake and guava dessert home.  She said she looked forward to seeing me for lunch on Monday with my husband.  I told her I couldn’t wait to come back often!  We joked how I had camped out at the bar area while I was there.  I told her I didn’t want to leave and that I needed a plaque with my name claiming that spot as my own!   She replied, “well, you’re family when you come in…we want you to stay!”

This was the perfect way for me to leave Miami Fusion Café on Friday.  I felt like family the minute I walked into the restaurant.  I know you will too, so please do yourself a favor and go by if you are in Birmingham.  Luis and his staff are anxious to serve you!

P.S.  On Saturday morning, Luis and his wife, Samantha, added to their lovely family with the birth of a daughter!  Quite a big week for the Delgado family…the restaurant opening and now a new baby!  Congratulations to Luis and Samantha and best wishes for great success with Miami Fusion Café!

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Mexican Mother’s Day

My mother – Barbara Zuniga – pregnant with me. I think this photo was taken late 1958 or very early 1959.

Today is Mother’s Day…in Mexico!  It’s always on May 10th, unlike in the US where it falls on the 2nd Sunday in May.  Living in the states…we have always celebrated Mother’s Day on the 2nd Sunday but this year I was aware of more posts than usual from my Mexican friends on social media.

It made me think about Mother’s day celebrations in Mexico, so I did a little googling this afternoon to see what I could find out about Mexico’s celebration.  In truth, it’s much identical to the US celebration – children honor their mothers with gifts of flowers and food on this day, much like we will do on Sunday here in the US.  Restaurant reservations are at an all time high – just like here.  Looking back on the origins of the day are rather interesting though.

In 1922 the idea of having Mother’s Day in Mexico was brought into the country from the US with mixed reviews.  However, it is said that the government, media and Catholic Church got involved and set the date as May 10.  In 1940, the wife of Mexico’s President Manuel Avilla Camacho declared May 10th a holiday and made it a state sponsored celebration.  An interesting custom emerged from this too from the government.  Disadvantaged women were invited to stores to pick a free gift.  In 1942, the government did something even more interesting.  They returned the sewing machines to women who had pawned them and then were unable to repay the loans.  This cost the pawn market approximately $160,000!  It was seen as a great gift though since these women used the sewing machines to help provide for their families.  This was reported in Time Magazine.

The box of photos my sister and I went through last fall at her home in North Carolina – many of these photos I had never seen before. I believe the box belonged to my late Aunt Gail – my mother’s sister.

Today though…I’m thinking of my mother and the life she has lived.  I’ll do this again on Sunday when we have lunch together, but today I’m getting a head start if you will.  When I visited my sister, Kanista, last year in North Carolina, she pulled out a box of old pictures to go through together.  There were several photos I had never seen before.  One in particular was of mom at an event in Cambodia – pregnant with me.  She had on a cute two piece maternity outfit with her hair pulled back and wore cute little sandals.  There were people dancing in the background having a good time.  I know my dad took this photo of her.  She’s smiling and looking off  into the distance.  I wish I knew exactly how far along she was in this photo…how soon I would make my appearance.

People always tell me I look like my mother…it’s such a compliment because when I look at photos like this, she is just so beautiful to me.  Still is…  Feliz día de las Madres!

Me and Mom – Mother’s day last year – 2016

Frida’s Nail Polish and Lipstick – Part Two

My Frida Kahlo doll surrounded by “her” nail polishes and lipsticks.

Last year, right before Day of the Dead, I was browsing through Instagram when I spotted a photo of Frida Kahlo nail polish and I was intrigued!!! Or maybe I should say, I was obsessed! I had to find this polish and as it turns out, lipstick too!!! You can read about this more in my original post – Frida’s Lipstick and Nail Polish.

Last month, I got an email from a young woman interested in finding out more about the Frida nail polish and lipstick.  She stumbled upon my blog post and asked to interview me for an online magazine.  Again, I was intrigued…!!!  We set up a time to talk and I went into my original story and my search for the nail polish and lipstick from this icon in the Hispanic community.

As it turns out…the hunt for the nail polish and lipstick is secondary to the reason finding something that “belongs” to Frida is so important.  That became the focus of our conversation.  Frida has long been an icon of strength, perseverance and independence for many women.  So having a nail polish or lipstick with her iconic artwork or her portrait really seemed to be a way to capture this strength, perseverance and independence for ourselves.

Frida had a unique beauty.  Who doesn’t know about her “unibrow-?”  But even with a unibrow – something that was so defining for her but would have the rest of us reaching for our tweezers…she was mesmerizing to people.  I recall going to Atlanta’s High Museum a few years ago with a friend to view the Frida and Diego exhibit.  I could have stayed for days reading all the descriptions and going through all their art creations.  At the end of the exhibit there were photos of both Frida and Diego.  There was one though…Frida was in a white dress and leaning on a wall.  It was in black and white, of course.  I just remember I stood and stared at it for the longest time.  I had never seen this photo before and she was simply breathtakingly beautiful in this photo.  I couldn’t get enough of it…  And at which point I was saying to myself…”what unibrow?”

Having these different Frida inspired nail polishes and lipsticks seems to be a way to be a little bit  like “Frida” ourselves.  I was becoming fixated again…  So after the interview, I began wondering if I could find any more lipsticks and polishes at my local CVS.  As luck would have it…I found some that I didn’t already have!  So now, I think I have everything that was offered through CVS and that makes me very happy.  And…I have the pictures to prove it too!

Meanwhile…I’m keeping my eyes open to anything new.  Who knows?  Maybe there will be a line of eye shadows next?!

 

Blogging Like Crazy Didn’t Make Me Crazy!

img_3991Today ends 30 days of blogging every day.  Yep!  You read that right!  I blogged EVERY. SINGLE DAY this month!  And…I lived to write about it!

The incredible Javacia Harris Bowser, founder of the See Jane Write networking group challenged the women of the group to #bloglikecrazy for the month of November.  I did this last year and it was a fantastic experience.  I wondered then if I could find enough topics to write about for 30 solids days and I did!  And like anything you do, with practice you get better and ideas come a little easier.

This year the only snag I hit was a pesky sinus infection the week before Thanksgiving which is still hanging on today.  So even though I had some bigger ideas for topics to write about, I didn’t feel good physically and I think it clouded my ability to write on some days.  I chose easier topics to write about and figured I would reserve others for a time when I was thinking more clearly and not as exhausted from fighting the congestion.

I ran into my friend Audrey Atkins yesterday who blogs at Folkwaysnowadays.com and we talked about the bloglikecrazy challenge.  She did the challenge too and we were both excited that we were one day away from finishing!  Check that goal off our list!  Oh, and you really need to check out her blog and her series for this challenge on favorite idioms.  It’s terrific and hysterical!  I learned a LOT about idioms this past month thanks to Audrey!

Back to our meet-up – we discussed how important it is to really plan things out and write ahead of time so you aren’t scrambling at 8 p.m. at night to get a post completed.  I admit, that was me on several nights during this challenge!  But through this process, I’ve thought about other topics I want to explore and write about.  I’ve also been surprised by what people are actually reading vs. what I sometimes “think” will spark interest.  It pays to look at your analytics and see what is catching your readers’ eye!  I’ll be doing more of that as I move forward.

Javacia started See Jane Write to empower women to write and live a life worth writing about.  Thanks so much, Javacia!  It’s a wonderful goal to aspire to and I think by accepting this challenge…I’m on my way!

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