An ambitious five-day festival coming to McAllen in July will celebrate the past, present and future of Latino culture and its influence on the Rio Grande Valley.
“We see the need to create a destination festival in the summer,” said Luis Cantu, vice president for international business and community development with the McAllen Chamber of Commerce. “It’s kind of a compilation of a lot of events we have done, but on a much bigger scale.”
Cantu said the retail and hospitality sectors of the local economy slow down during the summer months. “We wanted to create something to market to people who are looking for something new and different to do,” he said. “It’s all about how our two cultures interact and how the Mexican culture has influenced local culture here. It’s going to be a great opportunity for our younger generations to experience that.”
The letters in MXLAN are taken from MX for Mexico and LAN from Aztlan, the first pre-Hispanic city established in Mexico. It is also believed to be the ancestral home of the Aztecs.
Described as a one-of-a-kind interactive arts and music festival, MXLAN will be staged July 24-28 at the McAllen Convention Center. In addition, the McAllen Performing Arts Center will host some dance performances.
The Mexican state of Oaxaca is the epicenter of inspiration for the festival.
Chamber representatives traveled there last year for La Guelaguetza, an annual indigenous festival. They returned with ideas and plans to bring both special guests and events to McAllen.
“We have great experiences that are great authentic experiences that we are going to be presenting,” Cantu said. Highlights include La Guelaguetza performances by Oaxacan dancers and calenda-style street parades featuring authentic costumes, giant dancing dolls and music. A Mercado with more than 150 Mexican artisans will be open daily.
Musical offerings will range from traditional Mexican genres to more modern performers such as Omar Apollo, known for mixing Latin influences with popular current styles.
And there will be food, and lots of it.
A Sabor de Mexico evening event will feature Abigail Mendoza Ruiz. The world-famous Oaxacan chef has a dedication to preserving ancient Zapotec recipes. She will create the official celebratory dish of MXLAN. Ruiz will also join chefs from South Texas and Mexico on a tour of Mexican-inspired cuisine.
Another evening food event will bring together top pitmasters from Mexico. Firemasters at MXLAN will serve up massive amounts of meats and specialties grilled over open flames.
Another festival within the festival will highlight the flavors of mezcal, tequila and tapas in a colorful evening event. Visitors may dress up in the style of catrinas. Those colorful costumes are associated with and seen at Dia de los Muertes celebrations.
Officially called MXLAN 2019 by Shah Eye Center, the McAllen chamber has lined up the support of numerous other sponsors including the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, Glazer’s, Boggus, Reliant Energy and Cemex.