If you’ve ever traveled along Highways 45 and 45D in Guanajuato in spring, you’ve no doubt realized from the number of vendors alongside the road that this is strawberry country.
In March, the city of Irapuato has not one, but two multi-day events dedicated to the crop.
The first, called the Festival de la Fresa (Strawberry Festival), is held from March 6 to 8. A free strawberry-and-cream tasting at Plaza Miguel Hidalgo will kick off the event at 4:00 p.m. Friday.
Tours to a local strawberry farm will be offered at 9:00 a.m. on both Saturday and Sunday. The rest of the weekend is filled with such events as jam and dessert-making workshops, concerts by pop and traditional bands and the traditional Dance of the Toritos, most of which will take place at the city’s main square.
The complete program for Irapuato’s strawberry fest can be found on its website (in Spanish).
The other event is officially called the Feria de Irapuato, though it’s better known as the Feria de las Fresas (Strawberry Fair). The primary focus of the fair, scheduled from March 13 to 29, is a concert program (in Spanish) by nationally known acts including Gloria Trevi, Sonora Santanera and Bronco.
There will also be lucha libre bouts, a gastronomy pavilion, amusement rides, handicraft and livestock shows and all kinds of cultural and sports events. This year’s fair seeks to break the world’s record for the largest batch of strawberry jam.
Though it used to be held in June, the Feria de Irapuato has been moved to March to coincide with the 473rd anniversary of the city’s founding, as well as the fact that fields are in high production at that time.
Although strawberries are grown in much of the Bajío region, Irapuato has a particular reputation for the fruit, calling itself the World Capital of Strawberries. The crop was introduced to the area over 165 years ago by Nicolás Tejeda, who planted them in what is now the Santa Julia neighborhood. He sold his harvest in the form of ice cream, which gradually became popular in the city.
Major production started when a train station was built in Irapuato in 1960, allowing for shipping to much of Mexico and establishing the area’s reputation for sweet strawberries. The industry was nearly wiped out in the 1980s when the misapplication of fertilizer contaminated soils, forcing farmers to halt production for years. It did not truly rebound until the 2000s.
Although Irapuato is the country’s sixth largest producer of strawberries (Zamora is No. 1), those from here are considered to be of especially high quality and are regularly exported to the United States, Japan and several countries in Europe.