MONROE — Petra Duenas was a young girl when she walked through her neighborhood in Colima, Mexico, singing with friends and family for someone to give them shelter.
House by house, their neighbors sang back, telling them to move along.
But Duenas’ neighbors were not being rude — they were partaking in the traditional Las Posadas celebration, which is meant to symbolize the Biblical trials of Mary and Joseph as they searched for a place for their child to be born.
Although Duenas was only 9 years old when her family moved to America, the Posada tradition remains close to her heart. After singing at all the houses on her street, her family and neighbors always ended up at the church — and the church always let them in.
On Saturday, the Hispanic community of Monroe celebrated Las Posadas in the commons at Park Place Middle School. About 100 people gathered outside and sang to be let in. Inside, they danced, broke open pinatas and dined on traditional food and drink.
“This brings back memories,” said Duenas, 43, sitting with her husband, Enrique, and her 13-year-old daughter, Vannessa.
The celebration was planned by Northwest Latinos Unidos and the Monroe Parks and Recreation Department. It was the first large community Posada event in Monroe. Cultural events such as Posada — which begins Dec. 16 and ends Dec. 24 — are important for the city’s growing Hispanic population, said Margie Rodriguez, an assistant principal in Monroe who recently became the first Hispanic to be elected to the City Council.
“They’re beginning to feel like this is a place they can live,” Rodriguez said. “They can build their lives here.”
Traditional foods served during the event included pozole, a soup typically made from dried corn, meat, chilie and other ingredients; ponche caliente, a hot tea with pieces of fruit in the cup; and horchata, a drink made from ground rice often served with cinnamon.
After food had been served, people crowded near the front of the commons to watch traditional folk dancing. The dancers circled each other, the women twirling their large, colorful dresses and the men stomping with their hands behind their backs.
Alberto Robles, president of Latinos Unidos in Monroe, hopes the local Posada celebration becomes an annual event in Monroe.
“We get Christmas presents,” Robles said. “But the most important thing is having baby Jesus in your heart.”
Reporter Scott Pesznecker: 425-339-3436 or firstname.lastname@example.org.