Before there was peanut butter and jelly, milk and cookies or even mac and cheese, there was the awesome combination that goes back centuries, if not longer: chocolate and chile.

Beginning with the Mayans and Aztecs, it was considered a drink of the gods by grinding cacao beans with chile, herbs and cornmeal. It produced a bitter but popular drink that was valued for its healing properties. (Had they known about cane sugar, they could have ruled the world.)

Tohono Chul Park is celebrating that godly combination with its Chiles, Chocolate and Day of the Dead festival, which is in its fourth year.

These two foods, which have universal appeal, play a key role in the flavors of the Southwest, said Jo Falls, the director of education at Tohono Chul.

Both are uniquely part of the New World and seem more than appropriate to combine for a chile festival in Tucson, Falls said.

Scheduled for Friday and Saturday, Oct. 27-28, there are 36 craft and food vendors who are planning to feature chile- and chocolate-enhanced delights along with Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead-inspired crafts.

Food vendors, such as Kris Young’s Red’s Roasters, are planning on roasting green chiles. Americano-Mexicano has its pico de gallo fruit salad, a mix of vegetables and fresh fruit with lime juice sprinkled with ground chile salt, said owner David Peña.

This year, to tag along with the chile and chocolate theme, Americano-Mexicano is planning to add Mexican chocolate shavings to garnish the fruit and chile, Peña said.

For those who want to get new cooking ideas, the chefs from the Garden Bistro are planning to have cooking demonstrations, said Michelle Armstrong, the director of marketing and communications.

The scheduled musical performers are: harpist Rebecca Foreman; guitarist Michael Salerno; Entre Peruanos; Jovert, the Tucson High School steel drum band; and the Rafael Moreno Quartet.

Visitors are encouraged to leave a recuerdo, a message of remembrance to lost loved ones, at the community altar built by Patricia and Adam Silva. Cards will be provided so people can write messages, but organizers cannot guarantee that any other type of remembrance, such as a photograph, will be returned, Armstrong said.

In addition, there is also a Dia de los Muertos art exhibit in the Exhibit House, she said.

The event, at 7366 Paseo del Norte, is off West Ina Road just west of North Oracle Road. It goes from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. for both days and is $15 for the general public; $5 for Tohono Chul members; children 12 and under are free, Armstrong said.

For tickets and more information, go to or call 742-6455.

Contact A.E. Araiza at