Pozole Fest returns to Westwood this weekend (Local News and Reviews)

Looking to satiate your soul with hot food, drinks and culture? Look no further than the third annual Festival de Pozole in Westwood.

On Friday and Saturday, feast on 25 different pozole flavors from local chefs and community members around Denver at the RISE Westwood Campus, 3738 Morrison Rd. Each day vendors will be showcasing different bowls of the liquid gold, so best to attend both days.

Hecho en Westwood, along with Re:Vision are hosting the event as part of their ancestral food series, which focuses on bringing traditional indigenous cuisines to the table while also educating participants on the food’s history. It’s a collaboration between two groups focused on cultural preservation, Westwood preservation, community wealth and food security.

“One of the things that make our food festivals unique from others is that we focus on bringing in the community both with community chefs, half the participants in the festival aren’t businesses or professionals, and we also want to make sure the actual neighbors come to our event,” said Damaris Ronkanen, the owner of Cultura Chocolate and founder of Hecho en Westwood.

Cultura Chocolate's space in Re:Vision on Morrison Road. Feb. 25, 2021.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

And the RISE Campus, which is owned and run by Re:Vision, brings the two groups together.

The campus is home to a farm that produced 40,000 pounds of food last year, an art gallery and a commissary kitchen, used by locals often with the food produced by the farm. Re:Vision also runs their no-cost grocery store at the campus, which serves about 500 community members.

Mariana del Hierro, the Executive Director of Re:Vision, said events like the ancestral food series seek to combine everything the RISE Campus stands for, which is first and foremost food sovereignty, plus much-needed fun.

“For us being a food hub, it goes beyond the standard food pantry, food security work,” del Hierro said. “So many times when we’re doing food security work, there isn’t that piece of just coming together and celebrating our culture, our food, our company. So these food festivals are the cherry on top. They are a key piece in our food sovereignty work. It’s autonomy, dignity and that preservation of culture.”

Preservation efforts are the driving force for many nonprofits and community groups like Hecho and Re:Vision in Westwood because with high costs of living and development, the neighborhood is in danger of being gentrified and residents are at risk of being displaced.

Events like Pozole Fest or Chile Fest put on by groups like Hecho, Re:Vision, D3 Arts and BuCu West Development Association consistently have an underlying message: come for the culture, support the neighborhood and don’t displace us.

Irma Lopez works tortillas for customers during the Festival del Mole and Frida Kahlo celebration on Morrison Road. July 9, 2022.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Ronkanen emphasized that, while pozole may be the star of the show, the cultural showcase and preservation are really the focus.

“I think that’s something that is so important to both Re:Vision and Hecho en Westwood. With all the changes and development happening in the community, how are we making sure that we’re preserving the identity and culture of this community,” Ronkanen said. “There’s often events that maybe have some cultural elements to it but if you’re not really engaging with the local community, it’s not really preserving culture.”

Friday’s event is from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. and will be more of an adult affair featuring a small drink menu with items like horchata sucia, made with horchata, rum, coffee liqueur and a cinnamon sugar rim, and la nopalita, made with cactus, pineapple, mezcal, chile salt and a Besito’s Chamoy rim dip.

Friday will also feature music from Neni who runs Movete Chiquita Vinyl Club. She’ll be playing Cumbias, Latin Soul, Sweet Soul and Rancheras.

Saturday is for the family, going from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Local danzantes will open the event with a four-direction ceremony. They’ll also be on site to promote the new Danza Mexika Afterschool program that’ll start in April on the Campus.

On both days, the gallery will be open and the “Viva la Mujer” Art Show will be on display. The show highlights local women artists. And if you miss both days, you can arrange to pick up some pozole samples on Sunday.

The Festival del Mole and Frida Kahlo celebration on Morrison Road. July 9, 2022.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Ronkanen added that community members can reach out to get discounted tickets on the food items.

Festival de Pozole is the first event in Hecho and Re:Vision ancestral food festival series. Next will be Festival del Mole.

“Mole is such a cool vessel to showcase culture because mole is so unique to different regions in Mexico. There’s like hundreds of different kind of moles,” Ronkanen said.

Last year’s Mole Fest featured 30 different vendors pouring mole on tortillas and chips. Then there will be Festival del Tamal y Atole, which featured more than 50 variations of tamales and atole, a traditional hot corn- and masa-based beverage, at last year’s festival.

Ronkanen said all the ancestral food events are centered around community and fun. But really it’s about the importance of food and culture. And the best way to share your identity and culture with someone is to break bread with them.

“We don’t think of food as just a commodity, it’s a big part of our culture and our identity,” Ronkanen said. “Food is an expression of culture. When you go back to Mexico, you have these food festivals all the time but they’re put on to honor the ingredient itself…We want to focus on these ancestral food items and how we can use that as a way of getting community to connect back with our culture.”

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