Drivers inched along Guadalupe’s congested main street Sunday. On one side, cars parked scattershot and casual in dirt lots as their owners marked the town’s 30th birthday at the nearby Dia de Guadalupe Fiesta.
On the other side, groups of men sat on plastic chairs in their front yards, watching the day’s events.
It was the type of atmosphere residents, business owners and politicians in the one-mile-radius town hope will continue to bring tourists into the economicallychallenged area.
"When you come here, you think of little Mexico," said Fred Pineda, 48, owner of Guadalupe’s Farmers Market. "If you look at some of the houses, they’re still made of mud."
Pineda purchased the 18-year-old market in September from a friend. He lives in Coolidge but said when he took over, the people of Guadalupe came into the store and asked about his life and who he was.
"When people leave, they say, ‘Hasta luego!’ and they come back. They actually mean it," Pineda said.
Newly-elected Councilwoman Stefanie Miranda, 21, has lived in the town since birth. She said residents are proud of the combined Mexican, American Indian and American traditions that have made Guadalupe, a town wedged between Tempe and Ahwatukee Foothills, a Valley landmark.
"There’s a diversity," Miranda said. "But it’s one big happy family. Everybody knows everybody and it makes you feel safe. You can leave your house and know your neighbors will watch out for it."
Pineda said he and the small-business owners in Guadalupe want to help hold more events like Sunday’s, which included a car show, vendors, music and speeches from local leaders, to help build the economy.
"When somebody’s doing fantastic, other people get the runoff," Pineda said. He regularly tells his own customers to try the restaurants and shops on the other side of the street.
Pineda hopes the communal nature of the town will be its financial savior.
"We basically survive," Pineda said. "I don’t know how we do it sometimes."