LatinaLista — Who knew mole could be an empowerment tool? Yet, if it weren’t for that single Mexican condiment, that is as unique as its chef, 15 women would have not felt empowered enough to do something with their lives — and just as importantly, the city of Chicago would not be celebrating Feria del Mole.
On Saturday, September 28, at the “Infinity Math Science and Technology (Little Village) High School” in Chicago, the annual Feria del Mole will turn up the heat on creativity, originality and a shot for 40 lucky people to achieve a common American Dream — winning a cooking contest.
But to the contest’s entrants, it’s much more than winning prize money or a trophy. It’s an opportunity to prove to themselves and others that they are good at doing something. In fact, it was that very premise that launched the creation of the contest.
Several years ago, former executive director, Olivia Flores-Godinez, of Universidad Popular — a community organization that partners with local residents to engage them in participatory learning, was tired of hearing the 15 Mexican immigrant women participating in her self-esteem class that they ‘weren’t good at anything’ or ‘weren’t smart.’ Ranging in age from 25-60, the women met once a week to discuss their lives, their hopes for the future and support one another. Unfortunately, they weren’t very good at offering themselves support.
Frustrated with the self-defeating attitudes of the women, Flores-Godinez asked the women if they were good at cooking. There was no modesty when all answered with a loud Sí! They weren’t only good cooks, they told Flores-Godinez, but each bragged about making the best mole.
According to Wikipedia:
Mole is the generic name for a number of sauces originally used in Mexican cuisine, as well as for dishes based on these sauces. Outside of Mexico, it often refers specifically to mole poblano. In contemporary Mexico, the term is used for a number of sauces, some quite dissimilar, including black, red, yellow, colorado (another name for red), green, almendrado, and pipián.
The sauce is most popular in the central and southern regions of the country with those from Puebla and Oaxaca the best known, but 60% of the mole eaten in the country comes from San Pedro Atocpan near Mexico City. The popularity of the sauce, especially at major celebrations, is such that 99% of all Mexicans have tried at least one version of it.
Flores-Godinez shared her conversation with her co-workers at Universidad Popular. One of the co-workers told Flores-Godinez about a mole fiesta that was held near Mexico City and the decision was made to create their own mole feria to showcase these women’s talents and, in the process, build their self-esteem.
In its 8th year, the Feria del Mole has evolved to include both men and women who compete against one another in creating the best mole. The contest attracts over 3,000 people throughout the city of Chicago who pay an entrance fee that allows them to sample the different moles in the competition.
Entrants compete for a chance to win a number of money prizes, and not all for mole. One is for the best traditional dress and another is for best decorated table. Organizers of the event say that the contest has even served as the springboard for a couple of past winners to start their own mole businesses.
Today, profits from the feria are used to help fund the organization’s self-empowerment programs for youth, adults and seniors — a way of paying it forward — mole!