History of Our Lady of Guadalupe Fiesta Mexicana

OLG Fiesta History

The first Fiesta Mexicana was a one-day event held on August 17, 1933, on the grounds of our Lady of Guadalupe Church.

It was organized by Father Augustine Cuartero and the parishioners, with the special assistance of Mrs. Genevieve McDade, a local philanthropist from Assumption Parish who was very active in helping the Mexican community, and Our Lady of Guadalupe Church during the depression years.

Initial fiesta were small events held tightly within Topeka’s Mexican barrio. Parishioners and extended family were the only attendees, and food items were cooked from home and brought to the church grounds to sell. Entertainment was local, with an emphasis on music and dances from the homeland of Mexico.

Ask a longtime parishioner what “memorias” come to mind from past fiestas, and the answers would be as colorful as the event itself. Children relish the many flavors of raspas (snow cones). Youth mischievously cracking cascarones (confetti eggs) over a friend’s head.

The sound of gritos (Spanish for a long shout of happiness) to ranchero or corrido music played. All the sights and sounds recalled on those warm summer nights. 

As part of that first fiesta, traditional Mexican dances and songs were performed by a group of about twenty-eight dancers, singers, and musicians. Mrs. H.T. Legerwood assisted Mrs. McDade by coordinating the dances for the Fiesta.

It wasn't long before the fiesta programs, under the management of Mrs. McDade, reported attendance by the thousands. From the 1930s to now, we maintain this valuable cultural tradition.

Many parishioners such as Lupe Perez, Victoria Morales, Marti Martinez, Delia Ramirez, Margaret Villegas, Ediberto Gonzales, Arnold and Sandra Villegas, and more have volunteered and developed the dance troupes such as the Aguilas Aztecas, Bailes Mestizos and Ballet Folklorico De Topeka and Our Lady of Guadalupe Dancers.

The fiesta also incorporates dancers from outside of our community, such as Lawrence and Kansas City.

Then, as of now, all of the food for the fiesta was prepared by the parishioners. The first Fiesta lasted for only one day, but it was so financially successful that people requested that it be held the next year again.

A second successful fiesta was held in 1934, and that led to a decision to make the fiesta an annual event. Over the years, the fiesta has been extended so that it now lasts for five days, has gone from a quarter of a block to several blocks surrounding the parish neighborhood, and includes a Queen and King contest, a coronation dance, an annual parade down Kansas Avenue, a golf tournament, and a 5K run/walk in the Oakland area.

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The fiesta has also grown larger and larger to the point that it is today. Our Lady of Guadalupe’s Fiesta Mexicana is one of the oldest community Hispanic celebrations in the United States.

From a historical and cultural perspective, the fiesta has been and still is extremely important to the Mexican community in Topeka, Kansas. It is important because it teaches young Mexican-Americans about their Mexican culture and allows older Mexicans to stay connected to their culture and history.

Current planning for each fiesta follows closely on the heels of the one just concluded. It is not unusual for Fiesta volunteers to plan their vacations to be taken during this “big week” or for former Topekans to re-visit Kansas solely to attend our annual event.

The initial vision of Father Augustin Cuartero encompassed not only the sharing of our Mexican culture, but its primary purpose, which remains unchanged, is to support the parish's school and education of the children.

In 1921, a modest school was built, and by 1953, funds from fiestas were used to build a more expansive school to house increasing student enrollment. That school still stands today and continues to be used for the education of our children and parish ministries.

Fiesta time is a link that connects our past to our future.

Countless changes have occurred since the fiesta of 1933—from adding a professional carnival, welcoming all types of vendors, partnering with area businesses, and bringing in the highest level of Latin entertainment. We have stages of rich entertainment, more variety, more food, and definitely more fun!

While culture and tradition have continued to be the backbone of Fiestas, we have opened our arms to the wider community, state, and country by seeking creative ways to highlight our longevity and showcase our changing pace.

We feel strongly about what our fiesta (past and present) has to offer. As you browse through our website, we hope it entices you to come to visit! It is well worth it!

Volunteers, Good Stewards, Good Friends, Family.

Want to Have Some Fun?

At the heart of Fiesta Mexicana is the importance of volunteerism. We understand one of the many reasons Fiesta continues to thrive is that our festival is woven into the fabric of our community, steeped in the culture of our families, our church, and our school.

Fiesta volunteers range from the person down the block, employees of local businesses, social service organizations, and surrounding churches, to individuals from all over the country coming back every year to help.

While Fiesta Mexicana has evolved into one of the Midwest’s premier and long-standing festivals with an economic impact not only for the city, it is Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish's main fundraiser for Holy Family School.

We can never express our gratitude enough to all the elders that helped create our fiesta and tend to its continuance throughout the generations.

Perhaps one way we can make a small difference is by continuing to encourage volunteerism from our youth, those that attend our church and school, and from people all over the Topeka community.

Please consider helping. We have pre-fiesta opportunities in preparing tamales, spicing meat, and preparing the grounds and kitchen. We are always seeking volunteers in a number of areas during the week of the fiesta, especially assisting in the kitchen as well as post-fiesta with clean-up and taking down all of the stands.

Q: What is the fiesta?

A: The fiesta is Our Lady of Guadalupe Church’s annual fundraiser for Holy Family School, a Roman Catholic elementary school that is jointly administered and supported by Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish and Sacred Heart-St. Joseph Parish.

Q: Who organizes the fiesta?

A: The fiesta, since its inception in 1933, is planned and operated by parish and community volunteers.

Q: When is the fiesta?

A: Fiesta Mexicana will be held Tuesday, July 18, 2023  through Saturday, July 23.

Q: Where can we pick up the fiesta food?

A: Fiesta food sales can be picked up at the windows on the side of the Marlo Cuevas-Balandran Activity Center at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, 201 N.E. Chandler, Topeka, Kansas.

Q: The menu for the fiesta food sales will be the traditional favorites:

A:  Tamales, burritos, enchiladas, tostadas, and tacos along with side options of rice and beans.   

Q: Are there any food specials?

A: No specials on the main food line are planned at this time. There will be a variety of food offered on the Midway, i.e., tortas, etc. Please support the church-sponsored food vendors!

Q: Where do I eat?

A: Enjoy your meal under the tent on the school grounds or in the gym at the Marlo Cuevas-Balandran Activity Center.  

Q: Is other food available?

A: Please check for any additional items that may be offered on the Midway at our church sponsored booths.

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Fiesta Mexicana Coordinating Committee

Father Daniel Coronado, Pastor

frdancoronado@gmail.com 

(785) 232-5088 

dortega33@cox.net

(785) 221-5336

Dominic Gutierrez, Interim Vice Chair

Gina Barron-Jaramillo, Food Chair

rbj725@gmail.com 

(785) 224-7676

Rosa Cavazos, Royalty Chair

rosab3@yahoo.com

(785) 215-8197

Rebecca Cruz

rebecca674@gmail.com

(785) 260-3128

Manny Martinez, IT Chair

mlm_jayhawk@hotmail.com

(303) 579-8496

Jose Luis Marquez, Volunteer Co-Chair

marquejolu@gmail.com

(785) 383-4235

Kristina Munoz, Special Events Chair

kmunoz518@yahoo.com

(785) 608-9261

Susan Rodriguez

Ignacio Torrez, Grounds Chair

naciotorrez@gmail.com

(785) 554-4394

Open, Security Chair