Our Lady of Guadalupe serves up authentic Mexican cuisine to celebrate Fiesta
The line outside the Our Lady of Guadalupe mercado wasn’t quite as big as in years past, but people from across the city of Santa Barbara were still as eager as ever to pick up and enjoy their authentic Mexican food they’ve come to expect during the week of Fiesta.
“It’s definitely strange and different. The ambiance is different. Normally there is music blasting and people having a good time,” Mariana Contreras, office manager at the parish, told the News-Press.
“But hey, we’re making the best of it and trying to help everybody have that spirit that they always have and keep them cheerful and happy.”
In a normal year, the Old Spanish Days celebration would peak during the final Saturday of the annual event drawing hundreds to the Eastside church.
Every year, the parish hosts a Fiesta mercado, featuring tons of games, live music, raffles and, of course, traditional Mexican cuisine.
Due to the current pandemic, however, the Fiesta event could not go on as planned.
For a while, the church didn’t think it would be able to sell food either.
“There was a good chance that this wasn’t going to happen,” Ms. Contreras said.
“And then at the last minute, because we’re waiting on some to see if we could actually do it, we found out that we could, so we scrambled as fast as we could to get what we have now.”
And what Our Lady of Guadalupe recreated was a success.
“It obviously isn’t going to be the same as past years, but it’s been busy all day. We’ve been going through people left and right,” Ms. Contreras said.
“And we’ve been really lucky that most people have been really patient with us and really kind.”
Ms. Contreras added that it was a bit more hectic in the kitchen this year, as the amount of volunteers allowed at one time were limited due to the coronavirus.
Still, she was thankful for everyone who was able to make the event happen.
“We’re definitely really grateful for all our volunteers. I mean, it’s been hard because it had to be a limited amount, but we are super grateful and very blessed to have the people that we asked to help out,” Mr. Contreras said.
Normally, the church would hold the annual event from Friday through Sunday, but with the church holding mass outside on Sunday’s now, the event concluded Saturday this year.
The annual Fiesta mercado accounts for nearly 60% of the parish’s yearly revenue, according to Erika J. García, business manager for the church, as all proceeds from auctions, food, drink, and other vendors goes directly toward maintenance and service of the church.
And, while the church won’t be making as much in years past, they are still appreciative for the business they received during these three days.
“It is something that is really needed, because we depend on this income, especially, because we use it for all of the ordinary expenses so this was a really, really important thing to do. We’re glad that we’re able to do this, even though is on an infinite smaller scale, but at least we’re able to sell and make a little bit of money,” Ms. García said.
The menu of years past was cut down significantly, with the church only offering pozole, birria, tamales and tortas.
But, people still came out in droves to pick up their pre-orders or order upon arrival.
“We just wanted to find some things that were simple to do, not that simple, but were also hits. Tamales, tortas and pozole are all big hits and we also wanted to have different kinds of meat also not just pork,” Ms. García said.
According to Ms. García, they sold more than 5,000 tamales throughout the weekend, about 400 tortas and they even sold out of the pozole on their first day Thursday.
“We have heard a lot of good things and, for people, at least this is something that they were looking forward to and at least they were able to kind of taste a little taste of Fiesta,” Ms. García said.
“And if we could make a couple of people happy, a couple of families, it’s worth it.”
The staff made a lot of people happy, including Brent Lindstrom, of San Roque.
Mr. Lindstrom has been coming to the church for years during this time, and has always enjoyed the cuisine.
“We come down here every year, sometimes two or three times just to eat the best food in town. They have the best tamales, a great crowd, so we heard it was open, so we came down,” Mr. Lindstrom said.
While his favorite items were not on the menu this year, Mr. Lindstrom said he was still just excited to get the tamales and “get a little of that Fiesta spirit.”
Doug McFarling, of Santa Barbara, also came down to Nopal Street once he knew that the church was still serving food.
“I mean the food here, it’s been our favorite every year since we discovered it. It’s authentic and the people are so friendly and we enjoy supporting the local community. It’s awesome,” Mr. McFarling said.
“The food is always excellent so I’m glad they’re doing it. I’m glad they’re able to raise some money this year, but it’s different circumstances.”
Mr. McFarling added that he has been coming to the church during the week of Fiesta since he was in his early 20s. He is now over 50 and brings his kids.
“I missed the sound and the music and the kids dancing and the games,” Mr. McFarling said.
While he’s disappointed that the event could not happen this year, he understands that it is the right call given the circumstances.
He also added that this might make next year’s festivities even better, should they occur.
“I think people will have a certain amount of pent up interest and excitement for things like this here as well as at the Mission and the courthouse and De la Guerra Plaza and so yeah I think people will be extra excited and fired up,” Mr. McFarling said.