Joliet fiesta shares Mexican heritage

Saturday event featured Latin music, Mexican cultcure

Mariachi de Joliet, a community mariachi band, was the opening act at Fiesta en la Calle in Joliet on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023.

Fiesta en la Calle on Saturday provided an opportunity to celebrate Mexican culture in Joliet whether or not you were Hispanic.

“I’m proud of my Mexican people, and I really like this,” Lupe Lopez, a Joliet vendor, said at the event. “I like to know that there are a lot of white people and Black people enjoying the event, too. It’s good to be altogether.”

The crowd, at least early in the event held on Mexican Independence Day, was mostly Hispanic although not entirely.

Al Grimes of non-Hispanic origin was there to see his grandson, Jeffrey Grimes, perform with Mariachi de Joliet, a community mariachi band.

“I try to catch anything that he does,” Grimes said, noting his grandson sang the national anthem at a Joliet Slammers game this summer and he enjoys listening to him perform with the mariachi band. “I like the music. The music is very comfortable.”

Jeffrey Grimes sings with Mariachi de Joliet at Fiesta en la Calle in Joliet on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023.

Music is a very big part of the festival.

It’s such a big part that last year the event was called the Joliet Latin Music and Food Fest.

A series of bands would follow Mariachi de Joliet onto the main stage and a second stage throughout the night. There also was a Deejay Alley providing Latino music.

“It’s changing every year,” said Alex Paramo, founder and president of the Joliet Latino Economic Development Association. LEDA organizes the event and uses the proceeds to support Latino small-business owners.

The festival under the leadership of LEDA is in its third year.

“Every year we’re getting a lot of support, and it’s been growing,” Paramo said.

The event also provides an opportunity for Latino entrepreneurs to introduce themselves to the community.

Salvador Sanchez of Joliet had a large display of bird whistles among the wares he had on display.

“A long time ago, these were our toys,” Sanchez said of the whistles, which had a retro appeal comparable to a Slinky or Hula Hoop for Americans. “People 40 or 50 years old would play with these. Kids today don’t know anything about them.”

Salvador Sanchez demonstrates a bird-call whistle, which he said was a popular toy for Mexican children in his youth, during Fiesta en la Calle in Joliet on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023.

The whistles, in the shape of native Mexican birds, emit sounds remarkably like bird whistles when blown.

Leticia Budrick of Joliet, one of the early visitors to Fiesta en la Calle, said she enjoyed “just seeing how our culture and our customs are being exposed to people. You can see it in everything here – in our clothing and our food.”

Many of the vendors, including Sanchez and Lopez, sold traditional Mexican clothing. Food vendors also were at the event.

Budrick was there with her cousin Jackie Cuautli of West Chicago, who also commented that the event appeared to be an opportunity to share Mexican culture with their fellow Americans.

“I think inclusion is nice,” Cuatli said. “We can share our culture and our traditions, and people can enjoy them.”