A family-oriented Fiesta event for a limited-income community benefited a variety of Westside artists Saturday, from dance groups and bands to small-businesses owners who craft handmade goods. 

On a larger scale, money raised at Piñatas in the Barrio went toward a scholarship fund that will benefit at least two students from the Edgewood Independent School District.

With the grand return of Fiesta events canceled, scaled down or rescheduled due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Westside community seemed excited to return to Piñatas in the Barrio. People danced to Tejano and cumbia music and supported small businesses.

Piñatas of all sizes surrounded Guadalupe Plaza, each as colorful and festive as the next. Two piñatas, larger than even a tall adult, decorated the center stage, where crowds gathered to dance.

Women dance to cumbia music, which was playing through large speakers and was heard throughout the Guadalupe Plaza on the city’s West Side.
Women at Saturday’s Piñatas in the Barrio dance to cumbia music, which was playing through large speakers and was heard throughout Guadalupe Plaza on the city’s West Side. Credit: Raquel Torres / San Antonio Report

Piñatas in the Barrio is intentionally geared toward families that can’t afford Fiesta events with entrance fees and pricy food and drinks, said Rick Uriegas, vice president of Action United for Entertainers and Diverse Artists, the organization behind the event. Piñatas in the Barrio offers free admission and vendors selling $5 burgers and affordable drinks and snacks.

Even vendor spots cost about $200, whereas vendor spaces at other Fiesta events can cost up to $2,000. 

“A lot of times, [artists] want to follow their passion, and a lot of times, they’re in need of funds to do that. And that’s what we’re trying, that’s our mission,” said Uriegas. 

Uriegas said the event is no Oyster Bake and it’s not A Night in Old San Antonio. “It’s a little Westside barrio Fiesta event.”

Westside artist Irma Vargas attended the event as a vendor, selling products she’s been preparing since January. A steady flow of customers made her booth the busiest at the event. Vargas offered floral crowns, earrings, bracelets, piñatas on a stick and more, all handmade by the self-taught artist. 

“I’m happy that there’s an opportunity to come out and do this, because a lot of places, it’s hard to get into, and this is my barrio. Anything that has to do with this, I’m going to be here,” she said. 

Irma Vargas, West Side native, self-taught artist and business owner holds a decorated Fiesta sombrero, or hat, which she said make great wreaths for door decorations. Each product at her booth was handmade by her, including floral crowns, earrings, bracelets, piñatas on a stick and more.
Irma Vargas, a Westside native, self-taught artist and business owner, holds one of her decorated Fiesta sombreros, which she said make great door decorations. Each product at her booth was handmade by her, including floral crowns, earrings, bracelets and piñatas on a stick. Credit: Raquel Torres / San Antonio Report

Piñatas in the Barrio is the only event Vargas attends during Fiesta. She said the one-day event is always financially good to her and other events, she said, are more “impersonal.”

Because last year’s event was canceled, Vargas, 73, made her money selling tamales. 

“I do it out of necessity. I’m a widow. … I go out and I sell to try to keep up with my payments, just to make it,” said Vargas.

For over 20 years, Piñatas in the Barrio has been giving back to the community. A month in advance, a local artist paints a poster pro bono, tying San Antonio culture into their art. At the unveiling of the poster, El Rey Feo and King Antonio auction the poster to raise money for the scholarship fund.

At the last event, in 2019, the poster raised $1,700. While it’s not much, Uriegas said it makes a difference. 

So far this year, the poster auction has raised $1,500, according to Uriegas.

“It means a lot to those people because they’re from [the West Side], and $500, $600, $700 to them is a lot of money,” he said.

Elizabeth Geronimo and granddaughter Aaliyah De Leon, both dressed in Fiesta fashion with colorful palettes and floral accessories, took a selfie near a giant piñata next to the main stage.

“We like it for the traditions and the family and everyone gathered,” Geronimo said of Saturday’s event. 

Geronimo said Piñatas in the Barrio is the only Fiesta event her family will attend this year because it’s family-friendly and held in the daytime.

“It’s so important and so beautiful to help our own youth, our own artists, from our own barrio, from our own community,” she said. 

Raquel Torres

Raquel Torres is the San Antonio Report's breaking news reporter. She previously worked at the Tyler Morning Telegraph and is a 2020 graduate of Stephen F. Austin State University.