Mexican Art, History, Culture and Food Visit Laredo – Laredo Morning Times | Candle Made Easy

Mexico is often cited as one of the most beautiful countries in the world, with its diversity of landscapes, history and cultures forming the basis of what the country contributes to. In addition, it is known for its craftsmanship and generations of traditions that are still practiced today.

The 18th Annual Sister City Festival at the Sames Auto Arena is a slice of this world brought to residents and visitors without the need for travel tickets or a tour of Mexico. It’s also a little haven for local residents who want to enjoy Mexican food straight from Aguascalientes, Michoacan, Nuevo Leon and more.

A lot has changed for the festival between the first and the 18th celebration. In 2002, 48 sellers came, and a year later it was held in the former civic center. In 2005 there were 97 stands and in 2006 120 exhibits led to some pouring into an flysheet. Since 2010, the facility, now called the Sames Auto Arena, has become the festival’s venue to accommodate the growing number of vendors.

That year, Elia Tovar Olvera traveled from San Miguel Allende and has been bringing her wares to the Sister City Festival every year since. Their booth featured numerous handcrafted items including metalwork, ceramics, woodwork and more. A coveted item was the molcahete, made from volcanic stone, which she says is a way to enhance the flavor of any sauce compared to an electric mixer.

Olvera said the volcanic stone amplifies the properties of herbs that bring out flavor and encouraged everyone to learn the methods of molcahete instead of a blender. Aside from her numerous cooking utensils, a figure of Dia de los Muertos Frida Kahlo stood tall in the center of her booth. This was a colorful focal point that always showed off more of Olvera’s items.

Juan Gabriel Aguilera Delgadillo from Aguascalientes said he and his wife traveled to the festival to show their handmade leather and sewing goods. These included satchels, sandals, key chains and other accessories. For over eight years, the couple have worked on pita fiber embroidery, resulting in intricate designs on their finished products.

Showing off his wife’s work, a leather sandal was adorned with a floral pattern. Delgadillo emphasized the fact that there was no beginning or end point in the design, showing that it was handcrafted. He believes that the dedication in creating the handmade items ultimately leads to a greater appreciation for the goods being made, both in the creator and the buyer.

In 2019, over 25,000 attendees were recorded during the three-day event, with the Laredo Convention and Visitors Bureau expecting to either match or break that record in 2022. Aileen Ramos, director of the CVB, said the first line at the door in the morning was a strong sign of increased demand for the festival. In addition, the upbeat energy could be seen as residents sat to watch the “Danza de los Viejitos” eat at the stalls, purchase a new outfit or home decoration.

Attendee and renowned personality Sammy the House walked the aisles, mesmerized by the work on display and the crafts being made before his eyes. He praised the accessibility of the event, as parking, entry and browsing are free.

An example of browsing was a woodworker creating – with his hands and feet – a wooden Molinillo in the midst of the feast. These handcrafted items are an integral part of the festival and Mexican culture, and they’re a reason both Sammy and his wife attend the festival every year.

“I really like Mexican sweets. I really like Mexican sweets. I should probably stay away from them,” he said. “I like a lot of Dia de los Muertos stuff. I like a lot of local things. I like to see things from the motherland, things that come straight from the motherland. This gentleman was working here with his feet and hands, it was cool to see that. It’s cool that these things don’t get lost.”

He also encouraged locals to get out and attend the festival for its cultural, social and historical roots. Sammy the House added that it’s important to remember those who have constantly worked with their hands and continue to create their art in the modern age of machinations and assembly lines.

“These people have a work ethic, they make things — really nice things — and these are things where you’d be like, ‘Oh, that’s cute, I saw it online.’ No, it has to be looked at by the people making it,” he said.

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