Festival de Comunidades Extranjeras

The Municipality of Querétaro held its third annual Festival de Comunidades Extranjeras (Festival of Foreign Communities) on June 4-6, 2010.  The purpose of the event was to highlight the presence of the various non-Mexican residents living in this area.  The festival was held at a large fairground in the suburbs and included booths from more than 40 countries.  Representatives from the Americas, Europe, Asia, and Africa promoted their nation’s cuisine, handicrafts, and culture.

The U.S. booth was actually sponsored by the non-profit organization that I work with, El Puente de Esperanza (see the blog entry on it below), because it was founded by an American and has many contacts in the U.S.  The Director of El Puente believed the Festival would be a good opportunity to promote the group to visitors and perhaps find potential volunteers.  Each country was allowed an area measuring 7 meters by 3 meters (about 22 feet by 10 feet) to feature their nation.  We dedicated the floor space in equal parts to promotional materials for U.S. tourism and El Puente, another part to selling “typical” food, and the final area to handicrafts.  The overall space was decorated with U.S. travel posters, maps, and red, white, and blue paraphernalia.  Finally, the Peace Corps, which has its Mexico headquarters in Querétaro, was featured in the booth.

You can see some of the results in the photos above.  We had written earlier to a contact that Julie has in the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City to request some posters and were sent about 17 of them depicting a variety of subjects – scenic images, skiing, Earth Day, maps, the U.S. flag, and, curiously, one featuring downtown Cleveland!  I had obtained Maryland tourist magazines and maps by contacting the Maryland Division of Tourism in Baltimore, and a former Director of El Puente who was visiting from Alaska had done the same for that State.  In addition, some of the students at El Puente had drawn a decorative map of the U.S. and detailed maps of five States (California, New York, Texas, Alaska, and Maryland) that presented additional details about sites of interest in each one.

The gastronomy of the U.S. was prepared by a local couple – she´s Texan and he´s Mexican – that run a catering business here called Edna´s Ribs.  They prepared Texas BBQ, ribs, and chicken wings.  They were competing with the cuisine from the other national booths, which ranged widely from Uruguayan empanadas (ricas!), Greek moussaka (νόστιμα!), German Schnitzel (wunderbar!), and French pastries (délicieuses!), and accompanied by beer from Poland, Ireland, or Mexico, not to mention the international standard of Coca Cola.

The handicraft offerings of the U.S. booth were articles of patchwork, an American form of needlework that involves sewing together pieces of fabric into a larger design, made into aprons, potholders, blankets, or other household items.  The interesting aspect of the handicraft was that the sewing had been done by indigenous women from southern Querétaro State.  They learned the technique from an American nun who has lived among them for many years and is helping them to develop marketable skills to earn a living.  We sold several pieces and took orders for more during the course of the Festival.

I chatted with visitors to the U.S. booth on all three days during the event and had two principal tasks; namely, explaining what the Peace Corps does in Mexico and touting the wonders of the State of Maryland.  I distributed a number of Spanish-language brochures describing the Peace Corps programs here, so I helped get that message out.  As for my efforts on behalf of Maryland tourism, if there is a sudden influx of Mexicans to the Free State asking the location of Camden Yards, inquiring about the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad, or looking for Michael Phelps, you’ll know who inspired them!

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