Old Spanish Days Fiesta El Presidente David Bolton, left, wearing a classic Spanish Traje Corto, and El Primer Caballero Gonzalo Sarmiento wearing a long sleeve Guayabera. (Fritz Olenberger photo / Old Spanish Days)
Old Spanish Days Fiesta El Presidente David Bolton, left, wearing a classic Spanish Traje Corto, and El Primer Caballero Gonzalo Sarmiento wearing a long sleeve Guayabera. (Fritz Olenberger photo / Old Spanish Days)

[Noozhawk’s note: Second in a series on Old Spanish Days. Click here for the first article.]

Eating is a big part of any Fiesta during Santa Barbara’s annual Old Spanish Days celebration. And choosing your outfit is always part of the Fiesta experience.

We often wonder what they’ll be serving, as we ponder “what are we going to wear”?

We’ll explore both today and offer a few recipes and men’s fashion ideas along the way as we continue our special 2023 Fiesta Journey.

Buen Provecho!

A Fiesta taco bar is an array of the delicious diversity of today’s taco while El Primer Caballero Gonzalo Sarmiento enjoys the samplings dressed in a vaquero or cowboy look.
(Fritz Olenberger photo / Old Spanish Days)
A Fiesta taco bar is an array of the delicious diversity of today’s taco while El Primer Caballero Gonzalo Sarmiento enjoys the samplings dressed in a vaquero or cowboy look. (Fritz Olenberger photo / Old Spanish Days)

Similar to the French’s bon appétit, the Italian’s buon appetito or the Germen’s Mahlzeit, Buen Provecho is the common Spanish phrase shared before eating a meal throughout Spain and Latin America.

In Mexico, it’s commonly reduced to merely Provecho. Either way, Enjoy your Meal!

The foods of Fiesta, whether at the mercados or at private functions, vary greatly, though, for the most part, they have a strong connection to Mexico.

In recent years, tacos have become the mainstay, whether carne asada, pastor or chicken.

There is some debate about where exactly the taco originated. Most countries have some kind of “taco” or sandwich.

There is a belief the word either comes from Spain’s Tacos de Jamon, which are bites of ham left over after the ham is sliced and then served as a tapa.

There is also a theory that the taco predates Spain’s arrival in the New World, and that the word taco comes from the Nautl language of the Aztecs — tlahco — which means half or in in the middle of.

Still other countries say the taco, as a style of food, was brought to Spain from the Middle East by the Moors and Sephardic Jews, and that it followed the shawarma technique, which is a roasted lamb on an upright grill, sliced and served on pita bread.

The origins of the famous Tacos al Pastor also follows this theory, with a pair of Lebanese immigrants inventing Tacos al Pastor in Puebla, Mexico. They had brought their shawarma technique over the Atlantic.

These tacos were originally called tacos arabes, but when lamb was replaced by pork, the name was later widely changed to tacos al pastor. Pork would have been forbidden in the Middle East.

Whether India or China, the Middle East or Spain, Mexico or Santa Barbara, the world has always enjoyed a folded over tortilla, falafel or other bread, wrapped around some kind of protein and eaten by hand.

We will be definitely doing this during Fiesta 2023. Buen Provecho, Viva la Fiesta and Viva el Taco!

The cuisine of Mexico is probably one of the biggest fusions found anywhere in the world, and it sure has history.

One of the famous Mexican dishes today, Pozole, is a great example of this fusion. The dish has its roots in pre-Colombian times, long before the American arrival of the first Spaniard.

Pozole was enjoyed by the Aztecs of central Mexico. Originally a broth of hominy, it was served during religious ceremonies.

The Spaniards then arrived, bringing pork with them across the Atlantic. Pork was soon added to the hominy stew, and our modern-day favorite, Pozole, came to life.

In fact, many of the garnishes of pozole were also brought to the Americas by Spain, including cilantro and oregano. And this transporting of spices, including cinnamon and sweet chocolate, transformed other dishes of the Americas, including Mole, into the fusion meals we all enjoy today.

Mole, which comes from the Spanish verb moler, meaning to grind, existed in pre-Spanish New World times. But it was Spain that brought sweet chocolate, cinnamon and other spices that helped elevate the dish into the beloved Mole of today.

The journey to today’s fusion Mexican cuisine is a long road. Many of the foods of Mexico have their roots in the Middle East, and were brought to Spain by the Moors and Jews, tweaked, brought across the Atlantic to the Americas, and then further refined into some of today’s favorite dishes.

A few years ago I toured Morocco with my husband, Gonzalo. This is the land where the Moors left the African continent to invade and occupy Spain for 700 years. With them came their foods.

We were fortunate to spend three weeks in Spain and then among the Berbers in Morocco. I was fascinated to see how similar some Moroccan dishes are to what can be found today in Mexico.

For example, the common Tajin, one of three Moroccan main dish staples — couscous and pastilla being the others — is quite similar to Cocido, found in Sinaloa and Sonora, and other parts of Mexico. (Most of the early “Spanish” settlers in Santa Barbara have part of their ancestry from the Sinaloa-Sonora region of northwest Mexico).

Both Tajin and Cocido feature simmered meat and vegetables. The slight difference: in Morocco, Tajin has virtually no broth; in Mexico, the meat and vegetables in Cocido come in a caldo or broth.

When Gonzalo and I ordered Tajin for the first time just after our arrival in Tangiers, Morocco, his first words were, “this is just like my mom’s Cocido.” Gonzalo is originally from Sinaloa, Mexico.

Food similarities in Morocco and Mexico are understandable. After many centuries of Arab domination in Spain by the Moors, there was an expansion effort by the newly re-Christianized Spain into the Americas, beginning with Columbus’ first voyage in 1492.

With these conquerors, expansionists and settlers came their traditional foods.

Many of those who made the first voyages to the Americas under the Spanish flag were members of Spain’s Arab and Jewish communities. Many of their cooking techniques, spices and blends made their way into what became the new Mexican fusion cuisine.

Scroll down for a Mole recipe from my food blog at the California Missions Foundation, where I serve as executive director and CEO.

Fiesta Men’s Fashion

As much as food is part of the Fiesta spirit, so is fashion. I am asked frequently, what are you going to wear, where can I buy my outfits, what should I wear?

Fashion has been an important part of every Fiesta. In fact in 1924, the very first year that the Lobero Theatre organized our community’s first Fiesta, two costume companies — one in Los Angeles and one in San Francisco — were hired to bring 1,000 outfits each to rent to the local townspeople. They set up their rental shop for the weekend on Cabrillo Boulevard.

Today, for men, there are basically four Fiesta styles.

  • The Spanish Traje Corto, or short jacket found in southern Andalusia.
  • The Mexican Mariachi outfit, somewhat similar but featuring a more ruffled shirt and larger neck bow.
  • The cowboy or vaquero “look” or attire, denim jeans, a nice collared shirt and boots.
  • And the fourth Fiesta option, a guayabera shirt and slacks. 

The latter is a loose-fitting cotton shirt, with sometimes a simple design on the front, usually subtle vertical patterns. Guayabera can also be of one solid color.

It’s the shirt of choice in some of the warmer climate regions of Mexico, and is even used by diplomats and government officials on the hottest days.

There are two retail stores in Paseo Nuevo that carry Guayaberas.

The Cowboy or vaquero look can be purchased at El Potrillo Western Wear, 612 N. Milpas St. in Santa Barbara; Jedlicka’s, 2883 Grand Ave. in Los Olivos; K.J. Murphy’s Custom Hatter & Mercantile, 3569 Sagunto St. in Santa Ynez; or at Boot Barn at 729 N. H St. in Lompoc, 435 E. Betteravia Road or 101 S. Broadway in Santa Maria, or at 431 W. Esplanade Drive in Oxnard’s Esplanade Shopping Center.

The Spanish Traje Corto is a harder find, and can be ordered from many retailers in Spain, or from the wholesale outlet Tomar Artensanía in Sevilla. A Google search can point you in the right direction.

The Mariachi outfit can be purchased online or, for an in-person experience, consider a visit to Los Angeles’ Boyle Heights and renowned tailor to the stars, Jorge Tello, at La Casa del Mariachi, 836 E. First St.

With any fashion, differing colors of pants, shirts and jackets can make multiple outfits out of one.

Pick your style, be you, and please don’t decide to not go to an event because you don’t know what to wear. Even one Spanish or Mexican-style shirt with dress pants would work.

Multiple color dress pants could make that one shirt and outfit look like two or three. A nice vaquero or cowboy shirt, ironed well, with a good pair of jeans will work.

Fiesta is about having fun. Fiesta is about fashion. Don’t overthink. Explore.

Fiesta will be here for many years to come. Be fashion adventurous. And Let’s Fiesta!

Holy Mole

Fiesta El Presidente David Bolton has spent three decades studying and experimenting with the foods of Mexico and Spain. (Bolton family photo)
Fiesta El Presidente David Bolton has spent three decades studying and experimenting with the foods of Mexico and Spain. (Bolton family photo)

Mole has been around since pre-Hispanic times. From the Spanish verb “moler,” to grind, Moles are varied, regional and historic.

Most of us think of Mole as a chocolate sauce, or we’ve heard that Moles are made with a long list of ingredients. Both are true.

In fact, the Aztecs made their Mole long before the Spanish New World arrival, but it was the Spanish who added new ingredients like sweet chocolate, cinnamon etc. that they had discovered during voyages to other parts of the world, like India.

These “new” ingredients, combined with the ancient Mole ingredients of the Americas — chilies, tomatoes, herbs and seeds — helped transform the Moles of Mexico into a world-renowned dish.

There are many varieties of Mole: Mole Poblano from Puebla, Mole Oaxaqueña and a basic Mexican Mole, among others, used in states to the north where a variety of ingredients are not as readily available as they are in central Mexico.

A few years ago I had the pleasure of attending a conference on Mole in Puebla, Mexico, on May 5 — a historic day throughout Mexico known as Cinco de Mayo.

The conference in the birthplace of Mole Puebla was fascinating, and included discussions about the history of Mole and explanations of the various techniques to making a quality Mole.

Mole Poblano as we know it today was first made by nuns at a Puebla convent who had been asked to prepare a special meal for a Spanish dignitary on his way from Mexico City back to Veracruz through Puebla during his return trip to Europe.

Moles may seem complex and difficult to prepare, but I’m passing on a simple Mole recipe that you will find easy to prepare and something your family and friends will enjoy.

Buen Provecho!

My Mother-in-Law’s Mole (Mole Estilo de Olvia)

This recipe was taught to me by my mother-in-law, Olvia Manjarrez Guerrero, during a trip I took to Culiacán, Sinaloa.

Sauce Ingredients

  • 4 Chiles — Dried Pasillas, rinsed, de-seeded and de-veined
  • 6-8 Crackers — a butter-type cracker like a Ritz (you could use bread as an alternative)
  • 2 gloves of garlic
  • ¼ diced white onion
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • Half of piece of Chocolate Abuelita — found in any Mexican market or the international section of your major grocery store

To Pre-Cook the Chicken

  • One whole chicken, cut in pieces
  • Water to simmer the chicken
  • 1 whole onion
  • 2 gloves of garlic
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and pepper for taste


In a large pot, place the cut-up chicken, a whole peeled white onion, two gloves of garlic, and the bay leaf.

Simmer until chicken is cooked, removing the foam from the surface throughout the process.

In a large saucepan, add cooking oil and sauté the dried chilies ripped into pieces. Remove.

In the same oil, lightly sauté the crackers, and remove to blender.

In the same saucepan, sauté the tomatoes, ¼ onion, garlic and the cinnamon sticks.

Once everything is sautéed well, place all of these ingredients in a blender, add the chocolate piece, and about two cups of the broth from the pot of cooked chicken.

Blend until everything is mixed together well and there are no large pieces. In the saucepan, return the blended mixture and on top of a low flame. Add a pinch of salt.

Once the mixture is heated, add the pieces of cooked chicken from the pot and simmer about 20 minutes, allowing the chicken to absorb the Mole sauce.

Serve the Mole over white rice. An excellent, exotic and flavorful meal. It serves 4-6.

Buen Provecho! 

David Bolton is a longtime community volunteer, journalist, national sports producer/director, and a historic preservationist. He is the 2023 Fiesta El Presidente of Santa Barbara’s Old Spanish Days and the executive director and CEO of the California Missions Foundation. In 2019, he was knighted by Spain’s King Felipe VI as a Commander of the Royal Order of Isabel la Católica, one of that country’s highest honors. The opinions expressed are his own.