A mix of colorful Mexican culture and flavors is coming to Heritage Square in downtown Phoenix on Saturday and Sunday. The first-of-its-kind Spirits of Mexico Culture and Tourism Fest is the brainchild of Yazmin Quezada, founder of Imex Live Events.
“Imex stands for I Mex = I Mexican. We do culturally conscious events promoting sustainable tourism and making bi-national connections for small businesses, local government entities and nonprofit associations to start future collaborations,” Quezada says.
Quezada worked directly with Downtown Phoenix Inc. to bring the unique idea to fruition.
“Yazmin was looking to bring her already established event from El Paso to downtown Phoenix, and was seeking community partners to help make the inaugural event a smashing success. Once we met with her and discovered what a unique, one-of-a-kind experience it was, we knew we wanted to be involved. It aligns with our organization’s mission of being multicultural and family-friendly, and it activates one of our prized public parks that’s perfect for hosting events. It was a natural fit!” says RJ Price, chief growth officer at Downtown Phoenix Inc. “We’re excited to see the relationships that this event fosters, and we hope it becomes a staple in Downtown Phoenix for many years to come.”
This year’s event celebrates the state of Chihuahua specifically, but the concept of the event is to change states every year so attendees can explore something different and discover a new destination every year. Festival activities include food for purchase, live performances, spirits tastings, a loteria game and more.
“I was born in Canutillo, Texas, and grew up between Delicias, Chihuahua and Ciudad Juarez (in Mexico) and El Paso, Texas. My husband accepted a job offer in 2019 in Phoenix, and I just found Phoenix full of opportunities and a great sense of community. That job offer ended, and we decided to stay and enjoy what Phoenix offers,” she says. “I am a senior Sun Devil pursuing a B.A. in tourism and development with a concentration on meetings and events and a certification in special events.
"I decided to start Imex to share my culture and help to remove the stereotypes about Mexico. I want the Phoenix community to experience Mexico by State during the event and make contact with local people in Mexico to travel and promote sustainable tourism, avoid leakage, make new friends, and travel together to experience firsthand the beauty of Mexico!”
The biggest misconception of Mexico is that it's a dangerous travel destination, Quezada says.
“It's as dangerous as any other (place) where you have never been before, you are by yourself, you don't know the language, where to go, what to do. If you put yourself in a vulnerable situation like that, it is scary. And if you deal with bad people, it is even scarier. I am not denying that crime happens in Mexico, like in any other country. It is just that we have more publicity,” she says.
But to show the public the delights of Mexico, the festival will offer new experiences covering all the five senses.
“Expect to have fun, learn something new, meet new friends, eat authentic Mexican food (tamales, enchiladas, burritos, gorditas, etc.), discover a destination, dance Payaso de Rodeo, sing with Juan Gabriel tribute band Juangabrielisimo, enjoy mariachi and the history of Chihuahua with Ballet Folklorico from Ciudad Juarez. Taste a variety of agave distillates and sotol, but ultimately, expect to build memories,” Quezada says.
If guests want to further explore options for international travel, the Ciudad Juarez tourism department will be present at the event. The Phoenix community will be able to ask questions about the tourism opportunities and connect with trusted tour operators to maximize their experience when visiting the destination.
“We are planning a state-wide Chihuahua trip after the event with sponsors, partners and anyone who wants to join us,” Quezada says.
Hours of the event are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Sunday. There is parking at the Heritage Square Garage as well as easy rideshare drop-off locations right outside of the venue. Heritage Square is located at 113 N. Sixth St.
Cost is $25 for general admission or $45 for VIP; VIP tickets include a shot glass, 10 tasting tokens and the opportunity to register for a free cooking class with a chef from Ciudad Juarez. Tickets are available on the festival website.