Hundreds of people flocked to Church Street in downtown Santa Cruz on Sunday, for the third annual Festival del Nopal. The event celebrated the nopal cactus and Mexican culture, with booths serving traditional nopal dishes and delicacies, including tacos, burritos, fruit cups, roasted corn on a stick, and kettle corn.
In Mexico, the cactus plant is one of the primary staples of food as well as a major symbol on the Mexican flag, known as the coat of arms of Mexico.
According to the official history of Mexico, the coat of arms is inspired by an Aztec legend regarding the founding of Tenochtitlan, nowadays called Mexico City.
A stage was set up in the parking lot behind the Santa Cruz Public Library, along with enough room for a dance floor so people could enjoy the music in the beautiful sunny weather.
Mario Garcia, 56, is from San Jose and he occupied one of the booths in the festival, yet his skills didn’t involve standing in a hot kitchen.
Instead, Garcia’s tools of choice are small precision knives meant for making decorative flower art pieces out of fruit and veggies. Garcia learned his carving skills at the Center for Employment Training in San Jose a year ago and has put them to good use so far.
Folks looked to enjoy themselves, as many of them had smiles on their faces when they walked from booth to booth trying a variety of treats or finding a hot pair of new earrings.
Christine Manuck, 31, was no stranger to the Festival del Nopal and liked what she saw again this year.
“I think it’s great, I was here last year and it looks pretty comparable,” said Manuck. “It seems like there are more vendors here and more diverse option of things to look at and do.”
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