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La Noche de Fiesta

April 19, 2012

In April 1938, the San Antonio Light described a new major event during San Antonio’s annual civic celebration that “perhaps more than any other feature of Fiesta Week captured the spirit of San Antonio.”  It was called La Noche de Fiesta.  Atlee B. Ayres, prominent architect and former director of the Fiesta Association, conceived, planned, and directed the combination parade and musical production as the concluding feature of Fiesta.

Having lived in Mexico, Ayres had seen and admired the country’s indigenous celebrations.  He was also aware of the talented local Mexican-American performers who were largely absent from Fiesta events.   Ayres had been introduced to some of these dancers when he planned “Night in Old Mexico” for the Texas State Centennial two years earlier.  Even though the country was still in the middle of the Great Depression, Ayres had no trouble getting the approval of the Fiesta planning committee.  And once he was told to proceed with his proposal, Ayres devoted several hours each day for auditioning prospective performers, designing the stage, and planning the program.   Among the key participants were orchestra leader Eduardo Martinez, and prominent singers and dancers such as Rosita Fernandez, the Acosta brothers, Carla and Fernando Ramos, and Elida Cardenas.

La Noche de Fiesta began in the late afternoon with a parade featuring local bands, but mainly floats sponsored by Mexican-American organizations.   At the conclusion, there was a mini-fiesta with music and food in front of the Municipal Auditorium for those waiting for the stage show.  There was uncertainty about the attendance, but the auditorium was packed and thousands had lined the parade route.

The event was such a success that the city decided to make La Noche de Fiesta a permanent part of Fiesta.  Ayres produced three more, each with a different theme, until World War II put Fiesta on hold until peacetime.  For whatever reason, La Noche was not among the events when Fiesta resumed in 1947.

While there are no known sound recordings or film of La Noche de Fiesta, several photographs are preserved in the General Photograph Collection of UTSA Libraries Special Collections.

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