Off of a non-descript part of Fourth Street in the North Valley, is a tree lined street where a hidden paradise exists. My cousin Soledad lives on this street and the most spectacular sight awaits you when you walk through her house and into her backyard. What you see is an explosion of color all around. It is a garden paradise.

Almost every year around this time my cousin, her husband Joseph, and son Joachim, host a party in celebration of spring, family and friends. It is something my daughter and I look forward to all year long. What is so special about this party is that it is a gathering of people who embody the spirit of ‘Burque, of the North Valley, of community. Who is invited to this party? Vecinos, old friends and new friends, tios, tias, y primos. Lots and lots of cousins!

The party started out as a celebration of Soledad’s and Joseph’s wedding in Oaxaca sixteen years ago. Since family was not at the wedding, they had a spring celebration for family and friends. It has since become the annual Fiesta de las Flores. Soledad feels it is sort of an equivalent of a pueblo feast day, a way of getting through another year, and a way to share such a special garden with friends and family.

The garden itself is so spectacular that it almost feels like walking into a dream. Peonies, Japanese irises, roses, artichokes and yerba buena assault your senses in the most wonderful way. When Soledad first moved into her house, it was in the winter. She knew that there were a few rose bushes in the garden and was stunned at springtime when all the bulbs bloomed. I think she said her words were, “Holy Shit!” when she saw the flowers that first spring. Master gardener Pat Turner used to live in that house. Ms. Turner lovingly took care of the garden and roses and also had a greenhouse, which still exists today.

There are hidden pathways and secret nooks and crannies. In one hidden grove is a cross, in remembrance of those who have passed away. Often rocks with names of family members and the names of women murdered in Juarez surround the base of the cross. In another hidden corner, a man by the name of Fred was making chicharrones in a giant copper pot for the party. Under the giant copper pot is a matanza pit that is used for roasting pork and lamb. In yet another area is my cousin’s studio. She’s doesn’t just work in her pretty garden, but is a photographer, playwright, curandera, caterer, and “Queen of the Jumping Bean!”

At his year’s party we were treated to Ehekaztl Danzantes, Aztec dancers, who blessed the earth, family and friends. The blessings were done in Nahuatl, Spanish, and English. Chuy Martinez and Otilio Ruiz also performed with their wonderful mix of new and old Mexican songs. And just as in my childhood, my mother requested the song Adelita and made me sit while being serenaded. It doesn’t get any less embarrassing the older I get!

As Soledad told me, it is a monumental task having this party. She also cooks all the food! Pork, lamb, beef, chicken, corn and flour tortillas, guacamole, pickled jalapenos, enchiladas, rice beans…you get the picture! And the fresh fruit, desserts and chocolate fountain were a feast of spectacular proportions. The evening also includes a piñata for the kids. I love to watch the long line of anxious little kids taking turns trying to smack the burro piñata. This year it took a while for that tough little burro to give away its surprises. Finally someone struck the fatal blow at what had become a headless, legless burro. It was all squeals and reaching arms for a giant pile of candy.

Every year the party is different – different people, different weather, different stages of flowers blooming. But one thing that always remains consistent is that Fiesta de Las Flores is a gathering of young spirits and old souls. My cousin’s garden grows more than just beautiful flowers. Her garden also grows cherished memories. Happy spring everyone!

Soledad in her garden.

Otilio Ruiz and Chuy Martinez

A blessing for Mother Earth

Making chicharrones!

Irises

Remembering our loved ones

Burro about to meet his fate!

Burro met his match!

Views: 68

Comment by A Saucy Lass on May 28, 2008 at 9:17am
Wow. Beautiful! Fiesta de Las Flores sounds like such a special event, held by a wonderful woman. Thanks for sharing it with us unlucky ones who don't get to go! :-)
Comment by Kelly on May 28, 2008 at 9:21am
Soledad is a wonderful woman, and multi-talented!
Comment by Diego on May 28, 2008 at 9:42am
That was a very nice party. I love going every year it is something I look forward to, and the food and copany is so wonderful.
Comment by Eckleburg and Grumblecake on May 28, 2008 at 11:26am
Thank you for sharing this with us, Adelita! Makes me feel like I was there. I can smell the chicharones, hear the music, and see the smiling faces of your family and friends. Can't wait to see you at the craft show!
Comment by Alicia Lueras Maldonado on May 28, 2008 at 11:57am
it was a great party full of laughter and music. i loved it. thanks for posting the great photos.
Comment by vashti on May 28, 2008 at 12:52pm
Yet another excellent post Lita. It was a lovely event...the dancers, the tunes, the company, the kids covered in chocolate from the fountain, the beautiful gardens, the amazing food... I tasted my first ever chicharones! good times, good times.
Comment by Sandrea on May 28, 2008 at 1:00pm
Thank you for the beautiful photos and wonderful story Adelita. I feel honored to have Soledad as one of my dear comadres. After being friends with her for several years I found out that my mom and her mom had also been friends and that her husband Joseph's brother is married to my cousin. Wow, that's just so New Mexico! Soledad is an amazing and talented woman with a great sense of humor. I will never forget the day when she got a bus load of us lost in Mexico City and instead of getting upset about it all, she laughed her glorius laughter which made us all feel at ease. We never did reach our destination that day, but we sure had a good time looking for it, thanks to Soledad! I love that Joseph and Soledad celebrate their love and joy with all of us with their very special Fiesta de Las Flores event.
Comment by Blakeington on May 28, 2008 at 2:12pm
Thanks for taking us, Lita! It was a blast. The Aztec dancers were the best, and you could tell that Soledad and Joseph knew the ritual because they would turn at certain moments in the dancing. Very cool.
Comment by ABQrising on May 29, 2008 at 12:24am
It was a great party... the engagements were wonderful; the food was spectacular; the yard/gardens totally did it; and the hosts were overly gracious. Only wish I could stay (read: stay awake) longer.

Shake, thanks for letting us enjoy the company of your family and family friends.
Comment by Adelita on May 29, 2008 at 6:58am
Next year let's make sure we all meet! Sounds like a bunch of us were at the party and didn't know it!

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