The mariachi band played Mexican songs as the smell of food wafted through the air at Paco’s Mexican Cuisine.

Vendors lined the parking lot Sept. 15 for its Mercado de Independencia, or Independence Market, at Paco’s Mexican Cuisine, 1508 W. Magnolia Ave.

“Right after the pandemic, both restaurants and artists were both kind of struggling, so we saw that being here in a cultural district, we commingled a lot, and brought people together,” said Francisco “Paco” Islas, the owner of Paco’s. “It’s good for all of us from a business standpoint, but it’s also good for the community to actually come out and support each one of these businesses.”

The Mercado de Independencia hosted artists, a mariachi band, live music and business owners with the goal of bringing everyone together as a community, Islas said.

Rocio Aguilar, the owner of Artes by the Andes, sold embroidered bags, nativity scenes and plushies made of real alpaca wool shipped straight from the Andes Mountains in Peru.

“This represents the Andes of Peru,” Aguilar said. “Any stuffed animal here is made of alpaca. It’s super soft.”

Her merchandise benefits the communities in Peru that she receives from. Once a year, she travels to Peru to pick up merchandise and give back to the community.

Peruvian women sew and gather in the Andes Mountains in Peru. The women make handcrafted merchandise sold by Artes by the Andes. (Courtesy of Rocio Aguilar)

“It’s a group of about 800 women. They are all artisans. They mainly work harvesting and in fields, but they sew and make these things to help their families,” Aguilar said in Spanish. “What their government doesn’t give them is utensils, so we take and donate that to them. We want to keep working and collaborating with that community in Peru.”

Aguilar was one of many vendors who sold imported merchandise. Across from Aguilar, Miriam Astorga sold merchandise imported from across the Mexican republic at her Puerta Del Sol Imports table.

Islas said he plans on hosting four different mercados, or markets, a year: Mexican Independence Day, on Sept. 16; Cinco de Mayo, on May 5; el Día de los Muertos, on Nov. 1; and el Dia de los Reyes Magos, on Jan. 6.

“Here in the United States, I think Cinco de Mayo is a lot more popular and a lot more recognized, and most people don’t really know what the 16th of September is,” Islas said. “That’s our actual Mexican Independence Day and being able to share that and say, ‘This is why we’re doing this event and bring a little more light to it.’”

Cristian ArguetaSoto is the community engagement journalist at the Fort Worth Report. Contact him by email or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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Cristian ArguetaSotoCommunity Engagement Journalist

Cristian is a May 2021 graduate of Texas Christian University. At TCU, ArguetaSoto served as staff photographer at TCU360 and later as its visual editor, overseeing other photojournalists. A Fort Worth...