TUCSON, AZ – The nonprofit Tucson City of Gastronomy (TCoG) will kick off a month-long, bilingual festival to celebrate the gastronomies, histories, and food cultures of Maíze in Tucson and three other North American gastronomy cities belonging to the UNESCO Creative Cities and Délice Networks this spring, thanks to a grant from Pima County's American Rescue Plan funding for tourism recovery. To manage the event in Tucson, TCoG has hired local event managers Ranch House Media & Best Life Presents, who have directed and successfully grown the last several editions of HOCO Fest, and more recently helped produce the Agave Heritage Festival.
Pueblos del Maíz Tucson (PDM) will be a four-day celebration of Maíze's major role in Southern Arizona's food heritage, gastronomy, and culture, centered in downtown Tucson and extending to Mission Garden, San Xavier Co-op Farm, and the City of South Tucson. The main program, which will run from Thursday, May 5th to Sunday, May 8th, will feature a block party with street food, cooking demonstrations, chef showcase, musical performances, a film showing, a photographic exhibit, and educational activities.
It will closely follow and connect with the annual Agave Heritage Festival (AHF). Both the Agave and Maíz festivals, as well as Arizona Arts Live, will be co-presenting a concert with Lila Downs on April 28 at Centennial Hall. Other PDM crossover events include a free film screening in conjunction with the CinemaTucson film festival, and a co-promotion with El Tambó Fest to host the official afterparty for the Tucson International Mariachi Conference's La Santa Cecilia show at Rialto Theatre on April 29th. El Tambó Fest weekend 2 (May 6th) will feature Vox Urbana, El Santo Golpe, and the El Tambó DJ crew.
A Maíz Showcase dinner on Friday, May 6 will feature a collaborative menu by local award-winning chefs, restauranteurs, and food artisans, including Janos Wilder, Carlotta Flores (Si Charro restaurants and Carlotta’s Kitchen), John Martinez (Tito & Pep), Don Guerra (Barrio Bread), Mateo Otero (Rollies Mexican Patio), Kristel Johnson (HUB Creamery), and Adam Krantz (Monsoon Chocolate).
The Block Party / Maiz Fiesta on May 7th is FREE/All Ages and will feature a variety of Maíze-themed street food and artisanal food products and music by regional bands Gertie & the TO Boyz, Los Hermanos Cuatro, and Native Creed. Partners contributing to the event's programming include the San Xavier Cooperative Farm, Mission Garden, Santa Cruz Valley National Heritage Area, Southwest Folklife Alliance, Galeria Mitotera, Maiz Tucson, and City of South Tucson. The event will be as waste-free as possible, with a diverse range of local businesses and groups participating.
Tucson, San Antonio, and Mérida, Mexico, are all UNESCO Creative Cities of Gastronomy, and Tucson, Mérida, and Puebla. Mexico, are members of the Délice Network. After the PDM celebration in Tucson, the event will move through these other three cities on a rolling schedule through the month of May. The four PDM cities will exchange chefs, share livestreams of cooking challenges, and craft brewers in each city will make a special Maíze beer under the same PDM label. The Tucson version of the beer will be made by Borderlands Brewing Co. with traditional 60-day Tohono O’odham Maíze grown at the San Xavier Co-operative Farm.
The non-profit Tucson City of Gastronomy was formed in 2016 to manage the 2015 UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy designation for metro Tucson and Southern Arizona. It works with stakeholders in the local food system and food economy to leverage the designation to increase appreciation of our food heritage, culinary assets, and food system innovations, promote them on a global scale, and link them to heritage foodways preservation, culinary tourism, and economic development.