Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report
Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller celebrated a special mass Tuesday at St. Mary's Catholic Church to honor the city's hotel and restaurant workers, taxi and carriage drivers, and others who work tirelessly to welcome thousands of visitors during the city-wide Fiesta celebrations.
These tourism and hospitality workers, many of whom packed into St. Mary's Catholic Church Tuesday to receive "The Blessing of the Hands" by García-Siller, are a pivotal part of the behind-the-scenes work that makes Fiesta possible – and enjoyable – for locals and tourists alike. Without them, Fiesta would not be successful, yet many get little recognition.
"I challenge the people who come to Fiesta to be kind, compassionate, and patient with those who serve," García-Siller said. "We take for granted so many things that people do for us. Fiesta is about a lot of things and we want to remind people to recognize the great service that thousands of people do, like washing dishes, serving tables, and cleaning streets, to keep Fiesta alive for 11 days."
Fiesta celebrates the heritage, culture, and spirit of San Antonio and has an economic impact of more than $284 million, according to the official Fiesta website.
While cascarónes, music, floats, and parades, take over the city for more than a week: drivers take tourists from hotels to downtown, workers change bed sheets at hotels, and wait staff buzz around customers in packed restaurants.
To commemorate their efforts and prepare them for a busy work schedule, García-Siller sprinkled holy water on participants and led the crowd in a devotional prayer to Saint Martha of Bethany, the patron saint of hospitality workers.
"All these services, even as simple as they can be, do so much good," García-Siller told the Rivard Report in Spanish. "Without them we couldn't celebrate with beauty and the face of the city would be sad and desolate. These workers bring joy and light. We want to support the workers, celebrate them, and give thanks."
According to data from the San Antonio Area Tourism Council, one in every eight workers in San Antonio are employed by the hospitality industry and contribute towards the $13.6 billion economic impact of the hospitality industry in the city.
After the Tuesday mass concluded, attendees gathered on the steps of the church for a celebration. Several attendees kissed García-Siller's hands, others danced to the music performed by Trio San Antonio, and a shower of confetti from smashed cascarónes fell on the participants, a signal of the festivities to come.
"San Antonio is a special city and we welcome locals and visitors to Fiesta with open arms," said Benito Espinoza, who works at La Margarita on Market Square, or El Mercado. "A lot of special people from around the world come to celebrate with us. Yes, it's a lot of work for us and for the whole mercado, but we are blessed to be in the center of the city and we invite everyone to come and visit us."