Pilsen’s Mole De Mayo kicks off on 18th Street with mole, music and more

PILSEN — Despite the wind and clouds, locals took to 18th Street on Friday for the first day of the neighborhood’s annual Mole de Mayo festival, the first in-person in three years.

The Economic Strategies Development Corporation, a non-profit organization that serves businesses in Pilsen, has been organizing Mole de Mayo since 2009 and it’s their biggest fundraiser of the year. With its signature taupe cuisine, live music and lucha libre wrestling, the festival takes over a stretch of 18th Street from Blue Island to Ashland from Friday to Sunday.

The festival went virtual in 2020 and scaled back in 2021, with restaurants offering mole specials throughout the weekend. With the neighborhood tradition returning, people happily enjoyed themselves around the festival, tasting mole dishes, sipping agua frescas and buying treats from local vendors on Friday.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
A piece of carnitas is cooked at the stall of Juanitas Mexican Food at the Mole de Mayo Festival on 18th Street in Pilsen on May 27, 2022.
Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Agua fresca for sale at the stand of Ricas Nieves Estilo Acapulco at the Mole de Mayo Festival on 18th Street in Pilsen on May 27, 2022.
Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
The jewelry is sold at the stand of Divine Jewelry at the Mole de Mayo Festival on 18th Street in Pilsen on May 27, 2022.

Preparation for this year’s festival has been controversial, with Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th) and other community members are calling for the festival to be moved or rearranged significantly.

The alderman said he’s heard enough from residents and business owners who are fed up with the street closures, parking headaches, rowdiness and noise it brings. Sigcho-Lopez’s office held a meeting last month where residents of the community — both for and against the festival’s location on 18th Street — were able to speak with festival organizers and members of city departments. concerned.

While many said they wanted the festival moved, several people voiced their support for the business opportunity it offers local homeowners and said they appreciated the opportunity to show neighborhood pride. .

ESDC executive director Alex Esparza said he was unlikely to move the festival, but agreed to work out a compromise with residents.

Esparza previously said after hearing from business owners that the festival fence was blocking their entrances, vendors would be back to back in the middle of the street to encourage people to also visit the brick-and-mortar businesses that line 18th. street.

This layout was on display Friday, and patrons could be seen going in and out of businesses along the Strip while touring the festival.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
People sit on a porch and enjoy their lunch at the Mole de Mayo festival on 18th Street in Pilsen on May 27, 2022.
Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
People walk on the street at the Mole de Mayo festival on 18th street in Pilsen on May 27, 2022.

At the April meeting, a CDOT representative said the department would review festival traffic plans to address neighbors’ concerns, and a streets and sanitation official suggested closed trash cans to ensure that litter does not blow into the area and better placement of portable toilets to ensure they are not located directly in front of people’s homes.

On Friday, portable toilets were located at the intersections of 18th Street and side streets, not in front of people’s homes.

But resident Victoria Romero, who voiced her criticism of the festival’s logistics, said nothing seemed to have changed for her or her neighbours.

“We go through the same hell that we go through every year,” she said on Friday.

Romero said she and others will continue to advocate for their voices to be heard in the festival planning process.

The festival continues Saturday noon – 10 p.m. and Sunday noon – 9 p.m.

See more photos from opening day of Mole de Mayo:

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
A chorizo ​​and potato pambazo with mole from Juanitas Mexican Food at the Mole de Mayo festival on 18th Street in Pilsen on May 27, 2022.
Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Ojilvio serves a mangonada at the stand of Ricas Nieves Estilo Acapulco at the Mole de Mayo Festival on 18th Street in Pilsen on May 27, 2022.
Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Andy Peña slices a pineapple for a piña colada at the stand of El Campeón at the Mole de Mayo Festival on 18th Street in Pilsen on May 27, 2022.
Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Madelaene and Rigo have lunch on a porch during the Mole de Mayo festival on 18th Street in Pilsen on May 27, 2022.
Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Desserts for sale at the stand of Gaby’s Funnel Cakes at the Mole de Mayo Festival on 18th Street in Pilsen on May 27, 2022.
Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Lunch orders are prepared at Juanita’s Mexican Food stand at the Mole de Mayo festival on 18th Street in Pilsen on May 27, 2022.

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