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Mexican Fiesta

Cheery music, delicious food, and togetherness were all around at St. Alban’s Anglican Church on Sunday afternoon, Aug. 7 in Beamsville.

Members of Niagara’s seasonal agricultural workforce gathered to mingle and reflect on two years of hard work during the COVID-19 pandemic — alongside their neighbours in Lincoln.

The Niagara Farmworkers Projects’ Mexican Fiesta and Open House is an annual event at the church for the past nine years, except for 2020 and 2021, when it was cancelled due to the pandemic.

“It’s a blessing,” said Father Antonio Illas, who organized the event. “I’m so happy that we are able to do it for the entire community.”

Illas said the open house is all about making seasonal workers from Mexico and Central America feel welcome in the community during the working season, and to make them a part of the place where they live.

“The local community is able to hear the stories of migrant farm workers, and vice versa,” he explained.

Friends, family members, co-workers and neighbours were able to socialize and bond over a meal of tamales, beef tacos with a pineapple garnish, and churros for dessert. They also enjoyed live music from La Fonda Musica, a band performing in both English and Spanish, playing everything from rock n’ roll hits to Tejano music.

One seasonal worker who enjoyed the evening was Amado De Fitta, who’s been coming to Canada from Mexico for 17 years, currently working in Niagara-on-the-Lake. De Fitta has a lot of memories from St. Alban’s past fiestas, and was happy to be able to see his friends again. 

“About five or six years ago, this was the first place I came for mass,” he said in Spanish, translated by Illas.

The pandemic has meant significant challenges for the seasonal farm-working community, with new, extensive health and safety requirements, vaccinations, and uncertainty around being able to travel to and from Canada during cross-border restrictions.