Skip to contents
Pilsen, Little Village, West Loop

Pilsen’s Mole De Mayo Kicks Off On 18th Street With Mole, Music And More

The festival opened on 18th Street for the first time in three years, despite residents raising concerns about parking, traffic, noise and sanitation.

A customer receives their order of a pambazo at Juanita’s Mexican Food’s booth at the Mole de Mayo Festival on 18th Street in Pilsen on May 27, 2022.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
  • Credibility:

PILSEN — Despite the wind and the clouds, residents took to 18th Street Friday for the first day of the neighborhood’s annual Mole de Mayo festival, the first in-person edition in three years.

The Economic Strategies Development Corporation, a nonprofit that serves Pilsen businesses, has staged Mole de Mayo since 2009 and it is their biggest fundraiser of the year. With its signature mole cook-off, live music and lucha libre wrestling, the fest takes over a stretch of 18th Street from Blue Island to Ashland from Friday to Sunday.

The festival went virtual in 2020 and was scaled back in 2021 as restaurants offered mole specials throughout the weekend. With the neighborhood tradition back in full swing, people cheerfully milled about the festival, noshing on mole dishes, slurping agua frescas and buying goodies from local vendors Friday.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
A hunk of carnitas is cooked at Juanitas Mexican Food’s booth at the Mole de Mayo Festival on 18th Street in Pilsen on May 27, 2022.
Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Agua fresca for sale at Ricas Nieves Estilo Acapulco’s booth at the Mole de Mayo Festival on 18th Street in Pilsen on May 27, 2022.
Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Jewelry is sold at Divine Jewelry’s booth at the Mole de Mayo Festival on 18th Street in Pilsen on May 27, 2022.

The lead up to this year’s festival was contentious, with Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th) and other community members asking for the festival to be relocated or be significantly reorganized.

The alderman said he’d heard enough from residents and business owners fed up with the street closures, parking headaches, rowdiness and noise it brings. Sigcho-Lopez’s office held a meeting last month where community residents — both for and against the festival’s location on 18th Street — could speak with festival organizers and members from relevant city departments.

While many said they wanted the festival moved, several people spoke in support of the business opportunity it gives local owners and said they enjoyed a chance to show off neighborhood pride.

Alex Esparza, ESDC executive director, said he was unlikely to move the festival but agreed to work on compromising with residents.

Esparza said previously after hearing from business owners that the festival fencing blocked their entrances, vendors would be back-to-back in the middle of the street to encourage people to also visit the brick-and-mortar businesses that line 18th Street.

That layout was on display Friday, and patrons could be seen walking in and out of businesses along the strip while visiting the festival.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
People sit on a stoop and enjoy their lunch at the Mole de Mayo Festival on 18th Street in Pilsen on May 27, 2022.
Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
People walk the street at the Mole de Mayo Festival on 18th Street in Pilsen on May 27, 2022.

At the April meeting, a CDOT representative said the department would review the fest’s traffic plans to address neighbors’ concerns, and a Streets and Sanitation leader suggested closed trash containers to ensure trash wouldn’t blow around the area and better placement of portable toilets to ensure they aren’t located directly in front of people’s homes.

On Friday, portable toilets were located at intersections of 18th Street and side streets, not in front of people’s homes.

But resident Victoria Romero, who’s been vocal in her criticism of the festival logistics, said it doesn’t seem like anything’s changed for her or her neighbors.

“We’re going through the same hell we go through every year,” she said Friday.

Romero said she and others will continue to advocate for their voices to be heard in the festival planning process.

The festival continues Saturday noon – 10 p.m. and Sunday noon – 9 p.m.

See more photos from the opening day of Mole de Mayo:

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
A chorizo and potatoes pambazo with mole by Juanitas Mexican Food at the Mole de Mayo Festival on 18th Street in Pilsen on May 27, 2022.
Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Ojilvio serves up a mangonada at Ricas Nieves Estilo Acapulco’s booth at the Mole de Mayo Festival on 18th Street in Pilsen on May 27, 2022.
Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Andy Peña slices a pineapple for a piña colada at El Campeón’s booth at the Mole de Mayo Festival on 18th Street in Pilsen on May 27, 2022.
Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Madelaene and Rigo enjoy their lunch on a stoop during the Mole de Mayo Festival on 18th Street in Pilsen on May 27, 2022.
Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Desserts for sale at Gaby’s Funnel Cakes’ booth at the Mole de Mayo Festival on 18th Street in Pilsen on May 27, 2022.
Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Lunch orders are cooked up at Juanita’s Mexican Food’s booth at the Mole de Mayo Festival on 18th Street in Pilsen on May 27, 2022.

Subscribe to Block Club Chicago, an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.

Click here to support Block Club with a tax-deductible donation. 

Thanks for subscribing to Block Club Chicago, an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods. Click here to support Block Club with a tax-deductible donation.

Listen to “It’s All Good: A Block Club Chicago Podcast”: