Globetrotting doll lands in Chicago for ‘Mexico Week’

Lele, a 13-foot doll hand made in Queretaro, Mexico, was on display Tuesday at a Daley Plaza fiesta with traditional Mexican songs and dances performed by CPS students.

SHARE Globetrotting doll lands in Chicago for ‘Mexico Week’
Members of Toui Ballet Folklorico from the Richard Edwards Elementary School pose with La Muñeca Lele during a celebration of Mexico Week at Daley Plaza in the Loop, Tuesday, May 9, 2023.

Members of Toui Ballet Folklorico from the Richard Edwards Elementary School pose with La Muñeca Lele during a celebration of Mexico Week at Daley Plaza in the Loop on Tuesday. The 13-foot doll is a mascot of the Mexican state of Queretaro and is on a tour of the world.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Jaime Ortiz, a downtown worker of Mexican descent, found the “usually empty” Daley Plaza near his office transformed into something like the plazas his family knew abroad on Tuesday, alive with music, dance and even a 13-foot tall doll.

La Voz Sidebar

Lea este artículo en español en La Voz Chicago, la sección bilingüe del Sun-Times.
la-voz-cover-photo-2.png

Ortiz, 27, headed to the square at Washington and Dearborn streets after seeing a clip on social media of his niece and nephew, both performers in a local Mexican dance troupe, preparing to take the stage.

Growing up in Pilsen, he knew pockets of Chicago celebrated Mexican culture, but seeing the downtown fiesta felt like a level of recognition he had never known before.

“There was always Cinco de Mayo, but seeing something like this in Daley Plaza,” he said, trailing off. “As opposed to 20 years ago, it just feels happier.”

Natalie Reyes, 11, of Toui Ballet Folklorico from the Richard Edwards Elementary School performs during a celebration of Mexico Week at Daley Plaza in the Loop, Tuesday, May 9, 2023. | Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Natalie Reyes, 11, of Toui Ballet Folklorico from Edwards Elementary School performs during a celebration of Mexico Week at Daley Plaza in the Loop on Tuesday.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

The event was part of the Mexico Week festivities organized by the Mexican consulate in Chicago to promote unique Mexican traditions and celebrate ties between the city and the U.S.’s southern neighbor.

The city has long been a haven for Mexican immigrants and today, more than 200,000 residents of Chicago were born in Mexico, according to an analysis of 2020 census data by demographer Rob Paral, far more than any other country.

The downtown event included performances by the Ballet Folklorico from a Southwest Side school, solo mariachi singing from a recent CPS graduate and a troupe specializing in Aztec dances.

Representatives from the Mexican consulate and CPS CEO Pedro Martinez, who was born in Mexico, also spoke to the dozens gathered to watch the performances and to see the enormous doll — Lele, a globetrotting mascot for the Mexican state of Queretaro — brought by the consulate.

“We want to celebrate the many cultures that our children have across our district,” Martinez said. “It’s what makes Chicago so special.”

Chicago Public Schools CEO Pedro Martinez smiles while watching members of Toui Ballet Folklorico from the Richard Edwards Elementary School perform during a celebration of Mexico Week at Daley Plaza in the Loop, Tuesday, May 9, 2023. | Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Chicago Public Schools CEO Pedro Martinez smiles while watching members of Toui Ballet Folklorico from the Edwards Elementary School perform during a celebration of Mexico Week at Daley Plaza in the Loop on Tuesday.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Claudia Reyes, Ortiz’s sister, watched as her son, Nathaniel, 8, took Martinez’s place onstage and unrolled a large red ribbon with another dancer as part of the performance.

Reyes, 42, is of Mexican descent and her husband is from Mexico. They live in Archer Heights, where the local CPS school, Edwards Elementary School, happened to have the traditional dance program.

Reyes saw it as a chance for her kids to get closer to their roots.

“We don’t go to Mexico, we don’t follow Mexican culture, so this is bringing it home for them,” she said. “It’s made them know more about where their father came from.”

Sophia De Santiago, 9, and Nathaniel Reyes, 8, who are part of Toui Ballet Folklorico from the Richard Edwards Elementary School perform during a celebration of Mexico Week at Daley Plaza in the Loop, Tuesday, May 9, 2023. | Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Sophia De Santiago, 9, and Nathaniel Reyes, 8, who are part of Toui Ballet Folklorico at Edwards Elementary School in Archer Heights perform during a celebration of Mexico Week at Daley Plaza in the Loop on Tuesday.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Nathaniel tied the ribbon into a knot with 9-year-old Sophia De Santiago, also of Archer Heights and the daughter of another Mexican immigrant.

Her mother, Carmen De Santiago, immigrated from Mexico 20 years ago. She said that Mexico Week is a chance for Mexican Chicagoans to celebrate Mexican values.

“It’s about teaching them the cultural values,” said De Santiago, 41, “so we don’t forget it. Even if we’re not in Mexico, it’s a part of us.”

Offstage, passersby stopped to take photographs with Lele. The doll was handmade in Queretaro, and Chicago is her latest stop on a tour that’s included Denver, Philadelphia and New York City.

Lele’s next stops in Chicago include O’Hare Airport on Wednesday and Little Village on Saturday.

Sergio Perez stopped to take a photo of his son in front of the doll. The 3-year-old boy barely made it up to the doll’s knees.

The pair from Puebla, Mexico, were visiting family in Chicago when they got lost downtown and happened upon the festivities.

“It’s really great,” said Perez, 43. “In Mexico we celebrate special occasions a lot, and it’s something our people here in this country shouldn’t lose, better that they hold onto their roots.”

Yara Beltran, 3, smiles while watching members of Instituto Health Sciences Career Academy’s Aztec Dance program perform during a celebration of Mexico Week at Daley Plaza in the Loop, Tuesday, May 9, 2023. | Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Yara Beltran, 3, smiles while watching members of Instituto Health Sciences Career Academy’s Aztec Dance program perform during a celebration of Mexico Week at Daley Plaza in the Loop Tuesday.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Members of Instituto Health Sciences Career Academy’s Aztec Dance program perform during a celebration of Mexico Week at Daley Plaza in the Loop, Tuesday, May 9, 2023. | Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Members of Instituto Health Sciences Career Academy’s Aztec Dance program perform during a celebration of Mexico Week at Daley Plaza in the Loop on Tuesday.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Juan Diego Rojas, 18, sings during a celebration of Mexico Week at Daley Plaza in the Loop, Tuesday, May 9, 2023. | Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Juan Diego Rojas, 18, sings during a celebration of Mexico Week at Daley Plaza in the Loop on Tuesday.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

A kid runs in front of the audience during a celebration of Mexico Week at Daley Plaza in the Loop, Tuesday, May 9, 2023. | Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

A child in traditional garb runs in front of the audience during a celebration of Mexico Week at Daley Plaza in the Loop Tuesday.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Michael Loria is a staff reporter at the Chicago Sun-Times via Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster the paper’s coverage of communities on the South Side and West Side.

The Latest
The man was discovered Sunday morning with multiple gunshot wounds.
Preliminary evidence indicates multiple gunmen opened fire Sunday night in the 4500 block of South Evans Avenue, according to Chicago police.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau issued a new rule that may ease small business owners’ minds on offering the popular service.
Great things will be happening at Northalsted, Wrigley Field and 47th Street.