A crowd of a couple hundred people took a break from shopping to pay their respects to the Virgin of Guadalupe at Mesa’s Fiesta Mall on Wednesday.
During an event put on by the mall, spectators enjoyed traditional dances, blessings, mariachi music, and free holiday treats in honor of the Virgin of Guadalupe feast day, which is celebrated by Catholics every Dec. 12.
The festivities began with the group Tonanzin Guadalupe performing the traditional matachines-style Dance of the Feather on a stage in the center of the mall, where an altar featuring the Virgin was set up.
Zoila Chadolla, the leader of the dance group, said it was their second time performing at the mall’s event, which was put on for the first time last year.
Viney Celestino, the marketing manager at Fiesta Mall, was the main organizer for the celebration.
“We’re targeting the Hispanic community,” Celestino said. “We know there’s a strong Hispanic community here and we want to support their cultural and religious beliefs.”
She said they teamed up with Mesa’s Queen of Peace Catholic Church to bring the religious aspect to the celebration.
A priest from the church was joined by two students from Queen of Peace Catholic School in reciting prayers, which the crowd joined in on.
While they prayed with the crowd, more students worked together to add multi-colored papier-mâché flowers to a rosary laid out on the floor of the stage.
“The rosary signifies the Virgin uniting all the nations, not just Mexico,” said Alejandra Maldonado, who was with the church. “The colors represent the whole world; that’s why we used different colors.”
Maldonado said it was the church’s second year participating in the event as well.
The prayers were followed by a performance by Mariachi Valle del Sol de Fiesta Mall, a mariachi group that performs solely at the mall’s events.
The crowd sang along to songs while enjoying warm champurrado, a drink similar to hot chocolate, and sweet Mexican bread.
Spectators young and old were left smiling, as children were handed balloons and had a chance to make their own papier-mâché flowers at a craft table to the side of the stage.
Elder members of the crowd watched the entertainment with joy on their faces, and were excited for the opportunity to have the priest bless their own religious artifacts after his turn on stage.
The crowd, which filled the mall’s center court and the surrounding balcony, was much larger than last year’s, Celestino said.
She said she thinks it will only be bigger next year.
“I’m thinking people that are here today are going to let their friends and family members know,” Celestino said. “We want this to become a tradition at Fiesta Mall.”