Third Annual Tacos Fest in Orange Walk
On Sunday, the Banquitas House of Culture in Orange Walk Town was home to the third annual Tacos Fest. The name says it all. It’s an event where residents and visitors can sample every style of tacos known to Belize – made from chicken, beef and pork cooked in a variety of ways and served with corn or flour tortillas. In Orange Walk, tacos have become more than just food, and the tasty fare now ranks as premiere cultural cuisine. Mike Rudon was in sugar city and found out that tacos are just as sweet. Here’s the story.
Mike Rudon, Reporting
In Orange Walk on Sunday there were tacos everyway – fat tacos, skinny tacos, fried tacos, chicken tacos, beef tacos, pork tacos, pork pibil tacos, Mexican style tacos, tacos with flour tortillas, tacos with corn tortillas, tacos with hand-made corn tortillas fresh off the comal – we were in hog heaven…literally. The tacos festival is designed to highlight the growing industry in Orange Walk, and to provide an opportunity to vendors to shine. It was the brainchild of Orange Walk radio personalities Dillon Jones and Robert ‘Checkie’ Usher.
Dillon Jones, Organizer
“One day we were sitting down in the studio brainstorming ideas and we decided, let’s try the taco fest…when we started to put it on the table we realized that it’s a serious, serious industry in Orange Walk that needs the kind of recognition and the kind of support to keep it going.”
In between sampling the tacos on display – purely for the sake of news research of course, we learned that this is a serious business. It’s not about just slapping some meat on a tortilla and serving – this is a whole lot of work which has become somewhat of a labour of love for vendors. This is Dolfo Reyes’ second tacos fest. He sells tacos outside a popular nightclub in Orange Walk, and deals strictly with the popular pibil, cooked underground.
Adolfo Reyes, Tacos Vendor
“I cook about three, four hundred pounds of meat, like for today I’ve been up since one o’clock. I had to clean the meat and prepare it, season it – meanwhile the meat is being cleaned the firewood is already burning in the pit. It takes almost two hours, then we open the pit. Only charcoal should be there then. Then we put in the pot. That’s a process which takes about six to eight hours. For this time I had to do that twice because I cooked over four hundred and fifty pounds of meat.”
Daniela Pott has been selling tacos for twenty five years and can be found every day at Orange Walk’s Central Park. She deals in chicken, beef and pork, but does it all Mexican style. Apart from the preparation of the meat itself, the accompanying sauces are the icing on the cake. From the standard cabbage and onion sauce to the fiery hot pepper sauces – all were on display.
Yvette Torres, Banquitas House of Culture
“Over the years it has been growing…you know people come out and eat their tacos. We have a constant flow, but during the course of today at around twelve and two o’clock, that’s when we have more persons coming in. People come from all over the country, especially from Belize City.”
Amy Tillett, Tacos Vendor
“The secret is that we can’t say it…that’s the beauty of it. But trust me it’s nice – our tacos are not like everybody else’s.”
Twelve vendors took advantage of the fest, and all appeared to carry out a brisk trade. One favourite was this group which served pork pibil tacos on hand-made corn tortillas. The tortillas were baked on a comal over an ingenious makeshift stove – butane tanks packed tightly with sawdust and then lit to provide an intense heat all day.
After trying every possible variation of tacos in the interest of research, it was time to cool off with some atole, a traditional Maya beverage made from corn.
Libertad Cal, Yo Creek Resident
“First we bring the corn from the milpa, so we will do the traditional atole that my mother taught me. I grind the corn here to make the masa, then we have to strain the masa. We leave it for overnight to make it sour – that’s the traditional sour atole. Then we have to strain the masa. We put three times the amount of water in the masa to get the amount of a pot…then we put this over here and we add sugar to taste, then we put it over the fire hearth to cook. Then we have to put three times the water. Then we put it in the fire-hearth for half an hour to cook. We have to move it, then it will get thick and it is ready to drink.”
This probably won’t become my favourite drink of all time, but it was actually pretty good. Everything was good, especially after the second round. The tacos fest is an intitiative which can only become bigger and better with time.
“As long as we have health and strength we want to continue it. We’ve partnered with NICH and hopefully with them we can get bigger partners to come in. We’d like to reach the stage where we can get participation from the B.T.B. and have them put it on their yearly calendar so you know every November we look forward to the tacos fest in Orange Walk.”
Most of the tacos vendors sold out by three in the afternoon, but everybody still seemed to be having a good time in the sugar city, home of exceptional tacos.