The first Feria del Mole was organized by a group of 15 to 20 women who were partaking part in Universidad Popular's Women's Empowerment Program. These women, ages 25-60, were coming together once a week to discuss their lives, families, hopes, dreams, and support each other. At the time, Olivia Flores-Godinez was leading the group, and the main theme was "self-esteem development." Olivia kept hearing disempowering remarks from these participants, all Mexican immigrants and mainly homemakers: "I'm not good at anything," or "I'm not smart," or "I don't have any skills – how will I get a job or help my children do their homework?"
One day, Olivia asked these women if they any were good at cooking. All of them responded with a resounding "YES!" The dish that they most prided themselves on was their mole. Sharing this conversation with the staff a few days later, one of them, and one coworker mentioned a very popular "feria del mole" festival in a pueblo near Mexico City. Perhaps UP participants could put together their own "feria." Thus was born the Feria del Mole in Chicago, an opportunity for women (and some men!) in the community to put their culinary skills on display at this community festival, with. Thus far, at least, some of La Feria del Mole winners have started their own home businesses, catering private parties and events with their famous mole. The event has also become an annual fundraiser for Universidad Popular's community empowerment programs for youth, adults, and seniors.
What is mole? The world "mole" comes from the Aztec word "molli," meaning concoction, stew or sauce. To the uninformed, mole is a Mexican sauce. In Mexico, mole is a hundred dishes in a hundred homes: It varies not only from region to region but also from town to town. The mole Poblano, originating from the state of Puebla, is the most famous. The mole poblano is a complex dish carefully woven together using dried chiles, nuts, seeds, vegetables, spices and chocolate (preferably ground and toasted cacao beans). While mole is a traditional dish prepared to celebrate special occasions, it is also served as the main course of many family dinners.