Our Lady of Belen Catholic Church celebrates 221st annual Fiestas

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It’s that time of year again when thousands of faithful celebrate the Our Lady of Belen Fiestas by partaking in the famous green chile cheeseburgers, dancing under the carpa all while rejoicing in the parish community.

The centuries-old, culturally-rich celebration takes place Thursday, Aug. 14, through Sunday, Aug. 17. The theme for the 221st annual fiestas is, “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,” taken from a prayer of St. Frances of Assissi.

The padrinos for this years Our Lady of Belen Fiestas will be Mark and Veronica Jaramillo, left, and Judy and Pablo Sanchez, right. The parade marshals will be Luz Chavez and Martha Trujillo.

This year’s padrinos, Mark and Veronica Jaramillo and Pablo and Judy Sanchez, say it’s an honor to be chosen to serve and are thrilled to be in charge of this year’s fiestas.

“For us, as a couple who was married here and have five children, all who have been baptized here at Our Lady of Belen, we kind of represent the family of the church and we try to encourage the family to be involved in the church community,” said Mark Jaramillo, who was chosen to serve along with wife, Veronica, by last year’s padrinos, Valerie and Nick Gutierrez. “We try to involve our children in all of the fiesta activities.”

As padrinos, the Jaramillos and the Sanchezes are in charge of cleaning and decorating the church, attending Mass, being part of the raffle ticket sales. Next year, they will be part of the burrito sales.

Father Steve Schultz chose the Sanchezes as the second couple to be the padrinos. The couple say it’s an honor because they were the Christmas padrinos back in 1998.

“We have been lifelong parishioners of Our Lady of Belen,” Judy Sanchez says. “We’ve been involved in various ministries to serve our parish, including being sacristans, CCD teachers and eucharistic ministers.”

“Our sons were baptized here, our grandkids go to St. Marys and I went to St. Marys in the ’60s,” Pablo Sanchez says. “We have our roots here, and my mom and dad’s names are on the plaque at the old parish hall. Our tradition is here, and it’s an honor to be involved and share our Catholic faith. It’s a blessing.”

The Fiesta Queen candidates are, pictured in front, from left, Angela Smith and Alexis Martinez; in back, from left, Anessa Varela, Samantha Padilla and Joelle Benavidez.

The four say its a privilege to be able to represent the church community that is so welcoming to everyone, especially during the fiestas.

“We’re hoping to run in the new 5K Fun Run/Walk and then go down to the parade on Saturday,” Mark said.

Veronica, who has been married to Mark for 17 years, says this year’s theme means a lot to her.

“It means to bring the community together and to get along, and how can God work through me to bring peace together,” Veronica said.

Along with the fiesta burgers, carnival and booths, the fiesta draws in a lot of people just for the entertainment. Bryan Mascarena, the entertainment coordinator, says the fiestas this year will be no different.

“This year, we have Al Hurricane,” Mascarena said. “He hasn’t come in about four or five years, so we’re bringing him back. He’ll be here on Sunday at 7 p.m.”

Most of the bands who will be performing at this weekend’s fiestas are local, except for Preston Garza y Fuerzza, who Mascarena says is the only one not from the Albuquerque metro area.

For a second year, Mascarena says, Friday’s musical theme with be country-western, with performers such as Grupo Melodia, the Santa Fe Crossroad, featuring Charmaine, and the Bo Brown Band, a popular country band. Local favorite, Johnny Griego, who has been a longtime fixture in the area, will be performing on Sunday night during Hurricane’s breaks.

“We’re doing something this year so we can accommodate more bands,” he said. “Usually, we have the bands playing for two hours, but this year, each band will play for one hour. I’m trying to provide some of the bigger names but also some local groups to give them a chance. We have country, old school, a little bit of everything.”

Mascarena, who has been a fiesta volunteer coordinator for 19 years, says the music at the fiestas is always in high demand, with people wanting to know who’s performing as early as March. He said he listens to what people say and welcome their suggestions for new entertainment possibilities.

“I usually go with what people recommend, and if they’re available, we’ll hire them,” Mascarena said. “Some bands do request to play, and if we have openings, we’ll let them play, but sometimes we don’t have openings. I start booking as early as February.”

New this year is a 5K Fun Run/Walk, which will be held at 7 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 16, at Eagle Park, west of the church.

Joseph Garcia, the Belen High School cross country and track coach, along with Mascarena, are the coordinators of the first-time event.

“This is something we thought about doing last year but we didn’t have time to coordinate it,” Garcia said. “But this year, Bryan asked me again at the beginning of the fiesta meetings if we could do it and I was on board.”

Garcia said he thinks there will be plenty of participation in the fun run/walk, which he says will be an event for the entire family.

“There’s a lot of runners in town,” he said. “People are out there exercising and are involved in a lot of these types of events around the county and the area. We think this will help a lot of people to get out and run, and they don’t have to run, they can walk — it’s good for them, too.”

The route of the fun run/walk will be similar to the those that the city of Belen hosts, Garcia said.

The $20 registration fee will not only pay to participate in the event, but the first 50 who register will receive a free T-shirt. For information, call Bryan Mascarena at 620-8678 or Joseph Garcia at 550-6354.


-- Email the author at cgarcia@news-bulletin.com.