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It's well known that more than a few workers who tend to the grounds and animals at Turf Paradise don't exactly come correct with their pay-pers. In 2008, about 100 employees at the racetrack faced termination and deportation because they remained employed after federal authorities turned down their visa applications. But Maricopa County Joe Arpaio, America's self-proclaimed "toughest sheriff," didn't turn his eye to Turf Paradise, which is owned by businessman Jerry Simms. Instead, Arpaio and his trusty deputies were content to eradicate illegal immigration by picking off a couple of immigrants at a time at car washes, a water park, and fast-food restaurants. Perhaps Simms' hefty cash contributions to Arpaio and his political campaigns are behind this immigrant haven?
Father Jorge Eagar is well known in the Valley's Hispanic community for leading Tempe's Shrine of Holy Wisdom, a ministry of the Catholic Apostolic Church of Antioch-Malabar. Officially unaffiliated with the Roman Catholic Church, the Catholic Apostolic Church is an independent religious sect that embraces classic Catholic ritual and regalia, but is far more ecumenical and all-encompassing when it comes to beliefs. It prides itself on blending both Eastern and Western spiritual traditions, whatever their sources. Everyone has a shot at the priesthood in this church, despite gender, sexual orientation or any other of the usual bars to being a cleric in the mainstream Catholic Church.
What Eager is not well-known for is his eye-popping nacimiento or Christmas créche, designed around and assembled from over 1,200 figurines he's personally collected over the last 55 years. Eagar's nacimiento is so big it's taken over half of the multi-car garage attached to his home in Chandler. And it's so intricate that it would take days to appreciate all the fine details Eagar has woven into this monumental Biblical scenario.
Very few people in the Valley are privileged to see Father Eagar's eye-catching Christmas crèche, which is a popular tradition in both Mexico and Mexican-American communities in the Southwest. You have to be personally invited to see it and only a certain number of people are allowed in the colorfully lit crèche area at a time. Donations from guests are not required, but encouraged to help defray the cost of maintenance and to support other events Eagar's church holds during the liturgical year. Your best bet for gaining much coveted entrance is to contact Friends of Mexican Art around the Christmas season; members of this organization usually have seasonal entrée to the nacimiento and get a portion of donations made to support their continuous underwriting of Mexican art-related events in the Valley.
The corner of 12th Street and Dunlap Road doesn't exactly look like a hotspot for Mexican food, but tucked within Let It Roll Bowl is the new location of the old Mini Mercado Oaxaca. It's now called Oaxaca Restaurant, and though it does serve bowling staples like pizza, fries, and ice cream (don't eat these — the Mexican food is better), there also is an extensive menu of outstanding moles, tlayudas, empanadas, and other specialties. Excellent mole notwithstanding, what Oaxaqueños in the know really head to this place for are the chapulines, or edible crickets. For about seven bucks, you can score a bag of food-grade crickets that go great as a taco filling or just for popping by the handful. The texture is just like popcorn, and the flavor is reminiscent of tangy salt-and-vinegar potato chips. As the old tater chip saying goes, "You can't eat just one."