Today, 9/9/17, Albuquerque held its annual Salsa Fiesta in Old Town, the preserved section of an early part of the city, now dedicated to tourism and street festivals. The Salsa Fiesta included live music all afternoon in the plaza, and local salsa vendors making fresh salsa on site for today’s competition for best salsa.
Tasting tickets were available for the public to judge the salsas and vote for their favorite. Since we’re not natives, and the two categories of salsa were ‘caliente’ (hot) and ‘fuego’ (fire), we left the official taste testing to the people with stronger taste buds! This was a serious competition, with no mild for the wimps!
Instead, we enjoyed the smell of the salsa, the music, the people watching, Old Town itself, and the shopping. The entrance to Old Town next to the Albuquerque Museum greets visitors with a tiled mosaic and adobe gate. The centerpieces of Old Town are the San Felipe de Neri Church and the Old Town Plaza/Gazebo. There are other highlights, like the infamous Rattlesnake Museum, and many small art galleries, that we didn’t visit today.
The current San Felipe de Neri Church structure was built in 1793, after the original church building, which was completed in 1719, collapsed during a particularly rainy summer. It’s made of adobe, with 5 foot thick walls. Things were built to last in those days! The church has remained in continuous use, with only necessary repairs and minor alterations having been made to the original structure.
It’s a gorgeous building, inside and out, which overlooks the grassy, treed plaza. They have a gift shop full of unique items at good prices, so I always try to buy something as a thank you to them for sharing their sanctuary with the public. Plus, I have a thing for Mexican tile, Spanish colonial-style art, Saint Francis, and a few other saints, so I can always find something!
Old Town itself has little side streets and garden patios that are hidden down alleys. Besides the beautiful historic architecture, there is also public art everywhere, from the Virgin Mary carved into the remains of an old cottonwood tree on the grounds of the church, to tile work and sculpture, to a colorful Spanish Colonial-style bench outside a store, to patios filled with lush container gardens and a historic fountain.
After wandering and shopping, we settled in the plaza to listen to music and hear the salsa winners announced. When we sat down, there was a Mariachi band playing, Mariachi Tenampi. Albuquerque loves mariachi music almost as much as it loves green chilé. Next up was Ryan Montano and the Salsa All Stars. That got everyone up and dancing. One of the All Stars is usually a member of our favorite local Latin band, Baracutanga.
The Salsa music was interrupted to announce the salsa contest winners.
After that, it was time to make our way home. We came across Walter White’s van on the way to the shuttle bus stop.
The shuttle bus driver told everyone on the drive over from the parking lot to the Fiesta that he always works the Fiesta, and never gets any salsa. Somebody brought him a big cup of one of the prize-winning salsas as we were getting on the bus to go back to the car!