Piñatas, ceviche, flores de papel.

These were a few of the sights, sounds and tastes during the St. Peter Fiesta on Friday evening at the St. Peter Community Center.

Hundreds of people from St. Peter and neighboring communities came to the event, which highlighted Spanish-speaking cultures.

“It’s all about getting the community together and celebrating Spanish cultures in our community all together,” said Jane Timmerman, director of Recreation and Leisure Services.

The event was organized by Gustavus Adolphus College, St. Peter Recreation and Leisure Services Department, St. Peter Public Schools World Language Department and Community and Family Education, St. Peter Sister City Committee and St. Peter Evangelical Lutheran Church.

The event was paid for by the Schmidt Foundation, city of Saint Peter, and Bass Flexible Packaging, Inc.

The city’s and college’s Sister City Committee played a role, trying to show the bridge between American and Mexican cultures isn’t just for officials in St. Peter and Petatlán, Mexico.

Gustavus students Jorge Omana and Carrie Villarreal started the fun with making flores de papel, or tissue paper flowers. Villarreal said they are commonly seen at big celebrations and parties.

“They are beautiful,” she said as she separated the fine layers of her pink and purple flower.

They said the college’s Modern Languages Department and Hispanic student group marks major holidays. But they’re pleased to see St. Peter hold a celebration of Hispanic culture.

“It’s great to see the St. Peter community come together and learn more about it,” Omana said. “We’ve got a lot to offer.”

Gladys Lopez, Le Center, made the piñatas that children gathered around and took turns hitting blindfolded. Her family in Mexico had made them and she learned from her parents.

“I began with my children’s parties,” she said. “After people saw them, they said, ‘Will you make one for me?’”

From there, her family began a business called Awesome Fiesta Jumpers that has rentals for inflatables, tables, chairs, tents and table linens. And, of course, the piñatas for sale.

At a table near hers, Irina Moctezuma from La Mexicana Market sold soda, snacks and candy from Mexico. She said the soda and candy isn’t as sweet.

“People like spicy in Mexico and Central America,” she said.

She handed out menus for the shop’s restaurant, which will open May 10. Moctezuma said she appreciated the invitation to come and said it was great to see people from St. Peter, Le Center and Le Sueur.

“It is special,” she said.

In the Senior Center, Yanile Hettig, a native of Peru, showed a small crowd how she makes ceviche, in which tilapia is cured in lime juice with some seasoning, including cilantro, and onion. She followed Ana Adams, an associate professor from Gustavus and native of Seville, Spain. Adams demonstrated how to make salmorejo, in which garlic, tomatoes, red bell pepper and cucumber are pureed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Her grandmother’s touch was a bit of ketchup and Adams has added carrots.

“It’s a family recipe,” she said with a smile. “It’s simple, cheap and fast. I can whip it up and serve a crowd.”

St. Peter High School senior Casey Osborne organized high school volunteers to man piñatas and a class to bring display boards about Hispanic countries and cultures.

“The whole goal was cultural integration and awareness,” he said. “It was to have all the different ethnicities in St. Peter come together and have fun.”

Reach Associate Editor Nancy Madsen at 507-931-8568 or follow her on Twitter.com @SPHnancy.

Nancy Madsen has written for newspapers in Watertown, N.Y., and Mankato, as well as for PolitiFact Virginia at the Richmond Times-Dispatch in Richmond, Va. Nancy is a graduate of Wheaton College in Wheaton, Ill., and Syracuse University in Syracuse, N.Y.

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