For a humble man, Father Elias Nieves inspires a raucous party.
More than 2,000 miles from his home town and 87 years after his death, the martyred priest headlined an all-day extravaganza at St. Therese Parish, including food, flan, and fire dancing.
The church hosts a Father Nieves tribute celebration every year, marking the day, March 10, 1928, Nieves was executed by Mexican soldiers.
Sickly and near-sighted, Father Nieves defied a government order to abandon his rural parish. He continued to minister to his people, sleeping in caves to avoid the military, until one day he was captured and threatened with death.
“To die for our religion is a pleasing sacrifice to God,” he said.
Then he gave his watch and his blessing to his captors and died by firing squad.
Pope John Paul II beatified him in July 1997.
St. Therese parishioners, many who originally came from Father Nieves’ region, toasted him with Strawberry Horchata and mucho gusto, a swirling, colorful, spicy, sweet, multi-generational tribute from an unlikely Midwestern school cafeteria to an unassuming Mexican hero.
Here’s a little taste of the Aztec Dancers.