Spring in Tucson brings many events to engage the community, celebrate local cultures and enjoy local food and drink. A new event this week revolves around a simple ingredient that has nourished communities in Arizona, Texas and Mexico for generations.
Pueblos del Maíz Fiesta is the brainchild of Tucson City of Gastronomy and their counterparts in several Texas cities. TCoG manages Tucson and Southern Arizona’s UNESCO designation as a Creative City of Food and wanted to work with other UNESCO-designated cities to create an event they could all experience in their own communities.
Thanks to federal grants to Pima County Attractions and Tourism under the American Rescue Plan Act, Pueblos del Maíz Fiesta was born.
“We have been devastated by COVID: restaurants, tourism, travel, hotels,” said Diane Frisch, director of the Pima County Department of Attractions and Tourism. “As we try to prepare and bring tourism back to Pima County, we were looking for events that would play on all of the unique characteristics that we have here.”
The full party will be a month-long celebration of maíz, or maize, in multiple cities. It begins in Tucson May 5-8 and will move to Mérida, Texas on May 13-14, then San Antonio on May 16-22, and it will end in Puebla on May 27-28.
With local food and heritage at the heart of this event, there will also be a push for sustainability through the use of eco-friendly materials and intensive waste sorting to maximize recyclability and food compost.
“Coming out of the long pandemic hiatus, we need to reflect on why we’re really operating in this community event space, and that’s to shine a light on the things that are important,” said Matt Baquet, owner of Ranch House Media and organizer of Pueblos del Maíz Fiesta de Tucson. “For me, it’s sustainability, it’s closed-loop economics, it’s food security, and it’s common ground that you find with your community members to see each other. others.”
Pueblos del Maíz Fiesta fits right into the calendar among several other events that take place in Tucson in the spring. Instead of viewing timing as a conflict, these events work together to promote each other and extend their celebrations.
“We wanted to synergize with the Agave Heritage Festival and with other festivals like the Arizona International Film Festival, the Tucson International Mariachi Conference and the 23 Miles of Mexican Food Festival which all happen around the same time” , said Jonathan Mabry, executive. director of Tucson City of Gastronomy. “It will give visitors even more reason to come to Tucson and stay longer.” Here are the events unfolding in Tucson.
Thursday May 5
Tontitos y Bataretes: El Maíz in Sonora. Join José René Córdova Rascón via Zoom from noon to 1:15 p.m. He is a professor of anthropology at the University of Sonora and the Escuela Normal Superior who also earned one of his master’s degrees in public health with a specialty in public policy from the University of Arizona. Her presentation will explore the history of corn and ideas and dishes to make with corn. The presentation will be in Spanish with interpretation in English. Sign up for this free Zoom presentation at pueblosdelmaiz.com.
Photographic exhibition: “Maize traditions in Puebla” by Andrés Lobato. This is a free event for guests 21 and older at the Citizen Hotel from 5-6pm. The exhibition documents the rites, traditions and ceremonies around the agricultural cycle of central Mexico. RSVP for the free exhibit at pueblosdelmaiz.com.
Film screening: “Maize in times of war” by Alberto Cortés. Fox Theater will present a free screening of this film about a Jalisco family and their connection to corn. After the film, there will be a question-and-answer session with Carlos Rossini (producer) and Carlos Gutierrez (director of Cinema Tropical). Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the screening begins at 7 p.m. with the Q&A period running until 9:30 p.m. RSVP for this free movie screening at pubelosdelmaiz.com.
Friday, May 6
Pueblos del Maíz at the San Xavier Cooperative Farm. This event will take place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the San Xavier Cooperative Farm. There will be educational classes on growing, harvesting and processing crops as well as cooking classes to learn traditional native corn recipes. There will also be several other farm experiences throughout the day. RSVP for a farm day at pueblosdelmaiz.com.
Ixi’im: A Maíz-Based Indigenous Philosophy for the Americas. The Century Room at the Hotel Congress will host Roberto Rodriguez, Ph.D., also known as Dr. Cintli, from 5-6 p.m. His presentation will focus on maize cultivation in America.
Doors open at 5 p.m. and Dr. Cintli will begin at 5:30 p.m. More information about Dr. Cintli and the event can be found at pueblosdelmaiz.com.
Showcase of Maiz. It will be one of the biggest events of the weekend and one of the few ticketed events. From 7-9:30 p.m., join award-winning local chefs, restaurateurs, and food artisans for a bocadito dinner at the Congress Hotel. John Martinez (Tito & Pep), Don Guerra (Barrio Bread), Mateo Otero (Rollies Mexican Patio) and Janos Wilder (The Carriage House) are some of the chefs who will bring their unique twists on corn to this immersive dining experience. live.
Wilder is also the president of Tucson City of Gastronomy and curated the list of chefs he thought would make the evening unique.
“It will be a really wonderful cohort of local chefs celebrating our corn heritage with many different foods that we serve,” Wilder said. “This particular group of leaders was never formed
In addition to the mass of food planned for the menu, there will also be local beer. Brewers in each city incorporate maize into the brewing process to create beers specifically for the Pueblos del Maíz Fiesta. Here in Tucson, Ayla Kapahi, Production Manager and Head Brewer at Borderlands Brewing Co. collaborates with her team on their flagship beer.
Borderlands was one of the beverage artisans to receive certification from the TCoG for their efforts to use local and sustainable ingredients and practices, so it would seem only natural that they be included in this event.
“We use 60-day-old maize from the San Xavier Cooperative Farm,” Kapahi said. “It’s a less mature maize than other varieties, and because the maize can be processed and used in 60 days, it saves a lot on water practices for cultivation but also on the manufacturing process. they have to transform it. From what I understand it should be able to produce very earthy and sweet flavors. We decided to brew a light lager to really showcase the ingredient profile.
Purchasing a $50 ticket to the Maíz showcase also grants access to the annual El Tambo festival immediately after the showcase. Tickets for this event are selling out fast and can be found at pueblosdelmaiz.com.
Tambo Festival. This event is the official Maíz Showcase afterparty and will take place at the Congress Plaza Hotel from 9:30 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. the following morning. It’s a 21+ event, and if you don’t buy a ticket for the showcase, tickets for El Tambo Fest are $15. This dance party will celebrate the cultural fusion of the border regions and will host local and international bands and DJs throughout the night.
Tickets for El Tambo Fest are available for purchase at pueblosdelmaiz.com.
Saturday May 7
Sonoran Desert corn traditions at Mission Garden. Spend Saturday morning planting 60-day-old corn, find out
traditional methods of harvesting, roasting and milling corn, and participating in cooking demonstrations and tastings at the Mission Garden. This event is open to all ages and has free entry, although donations are accepted upon entry. Activities will be informal and educational with the aim of learning about community and cultural exchange. Activities begin at 8 a.m. and end at noon. RSVP for the event at pueblosdelmaiz.com.
Mayz Fiesta. After a morning in the garden, celebrate at this free block party held at the Congress Hotel and on Fifth Avenue. The block party is scheduled from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. and will include musical entertainment in the Plaza and Club Congress, as well as more than 15 local food vendors and artisans strewn across the street. Vendors will celebrate the cultural and agricultural significance of corn to the Tucson community and the Sonoran Desert as a whole. RSVP to this free event at pueblosdelmaiz.com.
Let’s talk about corn. During the Maíz Fiesta, there will be a round table in the Century Room entirely dedicated to the discussion on maize. Panelists will include Alexandra Zamecnik (Native Seeds/Search), Carolyn Niethammer (local author), Jeffrey Silvertooth (UA School of Plant Sciences), and Emily Rockey (Mission Garden). Join the panelists and ask questions about maíz from 5-6:30 p.m. RSVP for this free event at pueblosdelmaiz.com.
Sunday May 8
Maiz Mother’s Day. Restaurants and food and beverage artisans certified by Tucson City of Gastronomy will offer Mother’s Day
specials all over town. RSVP with your name and email to learn more about pueblosedelmaiz.com.
Needless to say, the Pueblos del Maíz Fiesta is shaping up to be an eventful weekend in Tucson. From The Old Pueblo to Puebla, Mexico, corn is a staple ingredient that has stood the test of time and proven adaptable to the human influences it has experienced over generations.
“It’s high time to celebrate a food that is central to our community’s history and one that we share with these other world-renowned food towns,” said Mabry. “I believe the event’s subject matter, location on the calendar, broad program, and strong partners provide the perfect foundation for immediate and long-term benefits for the tourism and hospitality industries in southern Arizona. ”