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Festival celebrates role of corn in Tucson's City of Gastronomy

“Maize Traditions in Puebla” by Andrés Lobato, a photo exhibit will be at the Citizen Hotel on May 5.

The historical role of corn in the heritage foods of Tucson and the region takes the spotlight at a new monthlong cross-border food festival celebrating three North American Cities of Gastronomy.

“The Pueblos del Maíz” festival kicks off May 5 in Tucson before moving on to San Antonio, and the Mexican cities of Merida and Puebla later in May.

Tucson opens the monthlong festival, which is apropos given we were the first American city to earn UNESCO’s City of Gastronomy designation in 2015. Ensenada, Mexico, earned its the same year, but Merida didn’t get its recognition until 2019, two years after San Antonio.

“Pueblos del Maíz,” produced by the nonprofit Tucson City of Gastronomy with support from Pima County’s American Rescue Plan for funding tourism recovery, runs May 5-8 with events being held at Hotel Congress and Fox Tucson Theatre on East Congress Street; Mission Garden at 946 W. Mission Lane; and San Xavier Co-op Farm, near the San Xavier Mission.

The photo exhibit "Maize Traditions in Puebla" by Andrés Lobato will be on display as part of "The Pueblos del Maíz" festival.

Events include a block party with street food, cooking demonstrations, a chef showcase dinner, live music, a film screening, a photo exhibit and educational activities. Here’s the schedule:

May 5: Photographer/journalist Andres Lobato’s “Maize Traditions in Puebla” photo exhibit will be on display at The Citizen Hotel, 82 S. Stone Ave., beginning at 5 p.m. Admission is free.

Fox Tucson Theatre, 17 W. Congress St., will host a movie screening for Alberto Cortés’ “Maize in the Times of War” from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m.; free. The film looks at the importance of corn and the dangers the crop faces for Mexican farmers. Producer Carlos Rossini and Cinema Tropical director Carlos Figueroa will hold a Q&A following the screening.

May 6: Tucson City of Gastronomy will host the Maiz Showcase, a bocadito dinner experience featuring some of Tucson’s finest chefs at Hotel Congress, 311 E. Congress St. The dinner will feature 10 Maiz-themed small plates created by local award-winning chefs, restaurateurs and food artisans including Carlotta Flores of El Charro; John Martinez of Tito & Pep; baker Don Guerra of Barrio Bread; James Beard Award winning Chef Janos Wilder; Mateo Otero of Rollies Mexican Patio; Erika Muñoz of Seis Kitchen; Borderlands Brewing chief brewer Ayla Kapahi; Kristel Johnson of Hub Creamery; and Adam Krantz of Monsoon Chocolate. The cost is $50 per person and that includes admission to El Tambo music festival at Congress. El Tambo Fest will include sets by Vox Urbana, El Santo Golpe and El Tambó DJs. It starts at 9:30 p.m. and admission is $15.

May 7: “Pueblos del Maíz Fiesta,” a free block party at Hotel Congress, runs from 5 to 10 p.m. Gertie & the T.O. Boyz, Los Hermanos Cuatro, Las Trillizas y Dulce and Native Creed will perform outdoors while Juan Wauters of Uruguay and Los Velvets of Nogales are set to perform inside at Club Congress. The party also will feature more than 15 local food and artisan vendors and a panel conversation about Maiz and the Sonoran Desert; free.

"The Pueblos del Maíz" is a monthlong cross-border festival that starts in Tucson and goes to two Mexican cities and San Antonio.

Contact reporter Cathalena E. Burch at On Twitter @Starburch

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