‘Tis the season to celebrate!

December is here, and while our friends up north are shivering down here in Akumal we’re enjoying the break from the heat. At Hekab be, the children started the holiday season with their traditional Paseo de Halloween (Halloween walk) visiting the restaurants and stores around the arch to “pedir Halloween”  – the Mexican way of trick or treating. There were no tricks down here though, just some fun costumes and happy children.

We celebrated Day of the Dead in the traditional Yucatec way with an altar and by cooking (and eating!) pibes slow baked in a pit fire. Pibes are like giant tamales filled with chicken in a spicy red sauce. Delicious!

If you follow Hekab be on Instagram and Facebook you’ll know that Kaori has developed a very active group of local families who are helping her create a vibrant and activity community. They have built a traditional Mayan outdoor kitchen for the very popular cooking classes, and have planted a garden to grow their own vegetables to cook with.

The children were an important part of the recent Akumal Arts Festival, creating art to decorate the Pueblo and attending some of the free workshops given by the amazing international artists that came to Akumal. The children also made their own instruments and gave a rousing performance inspired by the group ‘Stomp’ at the opening night ceremony.

Can you help us sustain these wonderful programs?

While Kaori and her staff have the physical help from the Pueblo families, they are in desperate need of one thing: funding.

Unfortunately, the local ex-pat community has drifted away from supporting Hekab be for one reason or another and the US foundation no-longer is receiving the donations it once did. While visitor donations cover materials, the fund that covers operating costs for salaries (which are very low), water and electric bills, and building maintenance is almost dry.

In this holiday season, would you consider making a small donation to help out? You can stop by Hekab be (we have parking directly outside) and give it to Kaori, or send via Paypal directly to the US board.

The Holiday Wishlist

If you’d rather give in kind, Kaori has a wishlist for holiday gifts posted on the website.

There are many new families who have moved to the Akumal pueblo in the past year, and the majority of them are extremely poor.

These children need clothes! Many of them have never had a new outfit in their lives. So this year, as last, we have decided to give a combination of clothes, plus a small toy or game. This is much more practical and sustainable than gifting just toys.

Suggestions for toys are jump ropes, Lego, dexterity and memory games such as Jenga or match cards, large piece puzzles for small kids, creative craft kits, magic sets, and science experiment kits. All gifts are good, but games and activities that spark the imagination or teach a skill are best.

For outfits, the children need good quality practical everyday clothes (t-shirts, shorts, dresses) and swim suits and sun-protection shirts for their swim lessons at the beach every second Saturday.

To buy an outfit or toy, choose from the list of children by gender and age below, and drop it off either at Hekab be between the hours of noon and 6pm Monday to Friday. Or you can drop donations at Turtle Bay Café and at the Akumal Chomak General Store by the arch.

  • Baby: 1 boy
  • 2 years old: 2 boys
  • 3 years old: 1 boy,
  • 4 years old: 1 boy, 1 girl
  • 5 years old: 2 boys, 2 girls
  • 6 years old: 4 girls
  • 7 years old: 1 boy, 1 girl
  • 8 years old: 3 boys, 5 girls
  • 10 years old: 1 boy, 3 girls
  • 11 years old: 1 girl

If you have any questions, please contact Kaori Sueki via the Facebook page, or at kaori.sueki2@gmail.com

THANK YOU and may you all have a joyful and blessed holiday season. Don’t forget that you are ALL invited to the holiday party! And please, if you haven’t been to Hekab be recently, stop by on your way down the beach road. It is a very different place these days, and we think you’ll be impressed by what you see.  

Summer Program 2019

It’s time for our annual Summer program, and we need your support! Our theme for this year is Aventurero Dentro De Mar. Can you help us by sponsoring a child ($25 usd) or two?  If you would like to Donate  then you would not only be helping Hekab Be to run its day to day operations but also you will be ensuring the kids of Akumal get the best possible experience out of the Hekab Be Summer Program.

Please check out our Wishlist of things we desperately need for the program and for the back to school pack that we give to each child at the end of the program in time for them to start the new school year!

All local children are welcome; please contact Kaori for more information or to enroll your children.

Summer Program dates are July 15th – August 9th

Announcing the winners!

History was made in Akumal this afternoon, with the first ever Hekab Be Trivia Challenge held at Lol-Ha restaurant. The tension was high as teams battled it out for the first prize of two nights at Casa del Corazon on Soliman Bay.

Wideshot of room (by Ivan)
The Lol-Ha dining room was full, but the sea breeze kept us cool.

How would you have scored?!

Quiz master Linda Novak presided over the event, with Marcy Essy asking the (very tough) questions. Just a few were …

  • How many states are there in Mexico? (31 plus D.F.)
  • What Internet engine was named after a tribe of savage brutes in Gulliver’s Travels? (Yahoo!)
  • Who was Watergate’s ‘Deep Throat’? (Former FBI director Mark Felt)
  • What is the Mayan word for water? (Ha)

Despite the challenging questions (it was a Trivia Challenge!) everyone had plenty of fun, with answers often provoking groans, exclamations of surprise, and sometimes even laughter. We learned that Elizabeth Taylor had 7 husbands (but was married 8 times), and that the lunar landing module was named “The Eagle.” (The eagle has landed … Of course!)

Winners received prizes from the event sponsors Tulum Luxury Collection and LocoGringo, La Buena Vida, Taverna Akumal, and Cueva Vodka.

They Are So Smart

The winning team got 35 points (out of a possible 50) with a tie for second and third place requiring a special tie-breaker round.

John and Rosemary Johnson and friends AKA ‘The Team from Table Twelve’ amazed everyone with their knowledge to become the 2019 Hekab Be Trivia Quiz Champions and winners of the gift certificate for two nights at Casa del Corazon.

These are the four smartest people in Akumal, who as their certificates attest, have “an intellect that shines in ways that bewilder friends and shocks enemies!”

 They Are Smart Too

Sara, Mike, Jim and Stuart, a team who met for the first time at the Challenge, are the second most intelligent in Akumal!

They weren’t friends before the Challenge, but now they’re off to Happy Hour to celebrate with their gift certificate from La Buena Vida!

They are Smarter Than the Average Bear

Third prize winners Susan, Randy, Enrique and Nancy narrowly lost second place after a nail-biting tie-breaker. Do you know who is the Long Island Lolita? (Hint: It’s not Lorena Bobbitt!)

The third prize winners received gift certificates for La Taverna Akumal

As well as the top three prizes, a “best effort” prize of Cueva Vodka was awarded to the valiant contestants on Table 16, one lucky contestant received a bottle of wine as a “chair prize” and a 50/50 raffle was held with half the funds raised donated to Hekab Be, and half for the winner. However, in a very generous gesture, the winner donated the money back to Hekab Be, increasing the donations for the event by $3,000 pesos!

Hekab Be Director Kaori Sueki with the winners of the 50/50 raffle, who generously donated their $3,000 peso prize back to Hekab Be. Wow!

The event was an outstanding success, and raised over $20,000 pesos to help fund the after-school programs at Hekab Be. A huge thank you goes out to Linda Novak for masterminding the event, to Kaori Sueki and Betsy Amy-Vogt from Hekab Be for helping with publicity and prizes, and to the amazing Akumal community that came out to attend the event and support Hekab Be.

And while being smart is its own reward, no event would be complete without prizes. We were overwhelmed by the generosity of the Tulum Luxury Collection for donating the first prize, and Katie Datica of LocoGringo deserves a special shout-out for weaving her magic and making it happen.

Laura Bush and Lol-Ha restaurant donated the location and staff for the event, La Buena Vida donated a very generous gift certificate, as did La Taverna Akumal. And of course, no Akumal event would be complete without artisanal vodka from the master distiller himself, Bartley Smith.

Cheers Akumal! We’ll see you at next year’s challenge.

Sometimes it pays to not be so smart! 😉 Memo and Eileen celebrate their “best effort” prize with Cueva Vodka.

Trivia Challenge fundraiser for Hekab Be after school program

Are you ready to compete against Akumal’s finest?

Battle will commence at Lol-Ha on March 13th at 1:45 p.m., when teams of four will match wits to discover the smartest in the community! 

Tickets are $300 MXP or $20 USD per person, and can be purchased at Hekab BeSuper Chomak, or email Linda for pick-up in North Akumal.

There will be a delicious pizza buffet courtesy of Lol Ha, and the bar will be open in case your brain needs a little lubrication to get into full gear.

Compete for the kudos … and for amazing prizes! 

The winning team will receive two nights at Casa del Corazon courtesy of Tulum Luxury Collection and LocoGringo. This secluded eco-friendly bungalow has been recently remodeled, and is surrounded by jungle yet steps from the stunning sands of Soliman Bay.

Second prize winners will receive gift-certificates for La Taverna Pizzeria and Risotteria, and the third prize winners will celebrate with locally made artisanal Cueva vodka. There will also be small surprise gifts, and a chance to win big in a 50/50 raffle.

All proceeds from the fundraiser will go directly to support the after-school program at Hekab Be, and will be administered by the US-based non-profit.

All about Hekab Be

For those of you unable to visit us in Akumal, and those who have visited and would like to see the children’s happy faces once more… The crew at Wonderworld Creative produced this short video to give you all a glimpse into a day at Hekab Be.

Para ustedes que no pueden viajar a Akumal, y ustedes que han llegado pero extrañen a nuestras caras felices … El equipo de Wonderworld Creative creado este video para que todos pueden mirar como es un dia a Hekab Be.

A (belated) New Year Newsletter

First off, A HAPPY NEW YEAR from all of us at Hekab Be, and an apology for not getting you all an update in January. We hope you all follow us on social media at our Facebook and Instagram pages. If you do, you will have seen the wonderful photos from the Christmas party, but if you haven’t here’s a quick look at all the fun we had …

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As you can see, the party was a big success, and ‘Red Beard’ 😉 Santa did a great job handing out gifts to excited children. Thank you to everyone in the Akumal community, both here and away, for your generous donations that gave the families of Hekab Be some extra Christmas cheer this year.

We also give a big thank you to the local businesses that donated food, drinks, and treats for the party, including Taqueria Maya, Turtle Bay Cafe, Lolha, La Taverna, Tequilaville, El Ultimo Maya, and La Buena Vida. Many of these businesses have been loyal Hekab Be supporters for many, many years and are always willing to step up and help out, not only with events but on a regular day-to-day basis. We appreciate you all!

Meanwhile, the Akumal beautification project continues at Hekab Be …

If you follow us online or have stopped by recently you will have noticed our beautiful new murals by Rory Eade. rory paintingA fantastic artist who reproduces pre-Hispanic art from archeological sites, Rory has not only shared his talent at Hekab Be, but is working his way around Akumal painting traditional artworks. You can see his depiction of the famous mural from the great ball court at Chichen Itza on the wall of the Cancha (basketball court) in Akumal Pueblo. Great location for it!

As well as the beautification from the murals, we recently completed work to fix up the concrete façade and roofs of the library buildings, and will be working on the inside of the classrooms soon.

We are continuing with our regular classes for the new year, and cooking class is always a favorite. Recently we had some parents show the children how to roast vegetables in a campfire. The roasted yams were delicious! Some of the other classes are swimming, yoga, painting, English, math, sports, and Maya culture and language.

Kaori’s big dream is to install a soft cover for the sports area to protect the children when they fall, and we are working with our volunteer board members to make that a reality. Watch this spot for news.

Speaking of volunteers….

At Hekab Be we are blessed with many visitors that stop by to visit the children and join in classes, and our parents are wonderful at helping Kaori and Lucy on a daily basis. We also have a core group of US board members, including new members Virginia Welstead and Ben Albright, to help with fundraising and administration … but unfortunately I (Betsy) am the only one here in Akumal most of the year. This means we really need of local volunteers to help with fund-raising and general publicity. (You may have noticed I am not so good at getting this newsletter written on time each month!)

If anyone reading this would like to volunteer, please email me at betsyamy@gmail.com, or talk to me in person. Your help would be very much appreciated!

A Month of Cookies, Flags, Socks, and Ghouls!

This past month, the afternoon activities organized by Kaori, Lucy, and our dedicated young volunteers from Tulum and G.V.I.  have included baking cookies at Turtle Bay cafe, painting flags for the Akumal Art Festival,, trick or treating, making masks of native animals, swimming and learning about aquatic animals at the beach, learning how to dunk a basketball, and playing Twister! Plus homework help and classes in math, Spanish, English, caring for the environment, and local history and geography.

We now have a group of over 50 children, plus parents, that walk across from the Pueblo to join the classes on a regular basis. It is heart-warming to see all the happy faces, both children and adults, filling the library with noise and laughter. Kaori has really stepped into her role as Director, and Hekab Be is regaining its place as the community center it was always intended to be.

Celebrating the Spooky Season with Halloween and Hanal Pixan

As a community of many cultures, we hold celebrations for Halloween, Dia de los Muertos and the local Maya Hanal Pixan here in Akumal. So as you can guess, the end of October and beginning of November is party season! The locals are celebrating not only the festivals to honor the dead, but also the end of the slow season as it gets colder up north. We’re also celebrating the return of many familiar faces in the ex-pat community as the part-time Akumalians head back south for the winter.

Last night we had a Halloween celebration with our very own haunted house, and 90 children attended! The Haunted House was really scary fun. Thank you to our High School volunteers who spent all last week making it!

We went trick or treating in costumes around Plaza Ukana and the businesses at the arch, and enjoyed delicious pasta from La Tavera. You can see from the photos that everyone had a spookily good time! Thank you Club Akumal Caribe, Lolha, Cueva de Pescador, La tienda de artesanías, Turtle Bay Cafe and and Hotel Las Casitas for welcoming us to trick or treat at their businesses.

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We will be celebrating the traditional Maya festival of Hanal Pixan on Nov 1st with an altar, traditional pibes (chicken and corn masa steamed in banana leaves), pan de los muertos, and of course, hot chocolate. Look for photos on Facebook!

Making Flags for the Akumal Art Festival!

As part of our outreach into the community, Kaori has been working with Jennifer and Marti from the Akumal Art Festival to organize flag painting sessions. All the children from Hekab Be painted flags, as did all the children from the Akumal public schools, and Akumal’s Otoch Paal Montessori school. Over a thousand flags have been painted in preparation for November 9th through 11th, when they will decorate the streets of Akumal during the festival.

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These are just a few of the wonderful works of art they have created – you can see more on the Hekab Be facebook page, or go and see the flags flying during the Akumal Art festival!

Baking Cookies at Turtle Bay Cafe

October started out with a trip to learn how to bake at Akumal’s favorite place for sweet treats – Turtle Bay Bakery and Cafe.  Owner Jennifer Smith shared some of her trade secrets with the children, who worked together to make fresh mango cookies. Thanks Jen, the cookies were delicious!

New Socks for Everyone!

We get many wonderful donations from visitors who stop by Hekab Be, and we are always very grateful for everything you so generously gift to the children. This month we were surprised by a donation of over 30 pairs of cute socks! While we live in a tropical climate it can get chilly in the winter, and most houses have bare concrete floors and are not well sealed against cold north winds. So a pair of cozy socks for each child was a welcome and fun gift.

Please Help Us Keep Helping Others

Don’t forget to drop off donations of lightly used clothes, household items, and good condition toys for our fundraising sale in the middle of November. We are also starting to prepare for our Christmas party, and this year we’re organizing our gifts slightly differently. If you would like to make a difference in the lives of these children, you can see our wish list on the website, or contact Kaori directly through our Facebook page. You can find our Hekab Be Holiday wish list in a separate post.

Keeping Hekab Be open costs money, and some parts of the buildings are badly in need of repairs. If you wish to donate to help for ongoing operations expenses and maintenance, you can make a US tax-free donation via Paypal.

Hekab Be’s Holiday Wish List

The holiday season is here, and we’re gearing up to have the best party ever here at Hekab Be. The more children, the more fun! Santa Claus has promised to visit us during the party as always, but this year we are going to be giving slightly different gifts to previous years.

Many of the families whose children attend Hekab Be struggle to make ends meet, and they have shared with us that they would appreciate gifts that are practical as well as fun. Gifts such as new clothes!

More practical, less plastic!

So this year we will be giving each child a set of new clothes, plus some small, fun, stocking stuffer style toys. We think this is a good middle ground where they will still have the thrill of new toys but also receive a gift that will be appreciated and used for much longer than something mass-produced in plastic.

We have 38 girls ages 3 to 12, with most aged 5 to 9. Clothes for girls would be shirts, skirts, t-shirts combos such as these on Amazon.com.mx, and sundresses such as this on Amazon.com.mx

We have 19 boys aged 1 to 12, with a pretty even distribution across the ages. Boys would love shorts and t-shirt sets such as these on Amazon.com.mx, or these Amazon.com.mx

You can buy clothes and gifts yourself, and drop them off at Hekab Be any weekday between noon and 6pm. Gifts can also be left at Turtle Bay cafe or at Super Chomak if you can’t make it by when we are open.

If you would like to buy clothes online via the Amazon.com.mx site and have them shipped to us here in Akumal, please contact Betsy for more information and a shipping address. Please don’t ship to the library – it is not secure! We suggest a price range of between $200 – $400 Mexican pesos (approximately $10 to $20 USD) per outfit.

The small toys should cost around $5 each, definitely no more than $10. The girls like unicorns, princesses, dolls, kitchen toys and and animals such as horses, dogs and cats. The boys like dinosaurs, sharks and lions, legos, cars, trucks and airplanes, and balls.

You can also donate directly to Hekab Be via Paypal. Make a note “Holiday wish list” and we will buy gifts for the children with your donation. You can also see our regular wish list here.

Everyone had a fantastic time at Hekab Be Summer Camp!

For three weeks this summer, Hekab Be was transformed as we explored the art and culture of Mexico, learning about the traditions of our local Maya, as well as the Aztec and Huichol cultures through crafts, theater, sports, dance, and cooking.

A total of 64 children attended camp this year, and we’re proud that tuition and supplies were covered thanks to generous donations from our friends, families of the children attending, and the Akumal business community. Thank you all!

Judging from their smiles, the children had lots of fun. Camp ended with a big celebration, where each class of children performed a play, and everyone danced the traditional Aztec “danza de los concheros,” complete with traditional dress.

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The smallest children, aged 3 to 5, were taught by Kaori. They learned about native animals from the Yucatan jungle. In their play, two explorers went into the jungle to meet the animals and learn their names in Maya.

Lucy taught the 6 to 9 years old, who performed a play about the legend of “El hijo del Maguey.” This traditional Mexican legend tells the story of Meconetzin, the son of the agave.

The older group, ages 10 to 13, were taught by Elizabeth, and created a play based on the Maya and Aztec gods. They not only performed, but wrote and directed the play and created their own beautiful costumes of the gods.

Every child who attended summer camp left with a backpack filled with supplies for the new school year, and an additional 26 backpacks with supplies were given to children who attend class at Hekab Be during the year, but were unable to attend summer camp.

Working together for the Akumal Art Festival

It wouldn’t be an Art Festival without art from the children! As part of the upcoming festival scheduled for this November, we are working with the Akumal public schools and Otoch Paal Montessori to decorate the Pueblo with beautiful, hand-painted fabric flags. We wanted to make flags that would last a while, but not become trash to litter the streets, so we are painting on fabric which will naturally decompose after a period of time. We want to include ALL the children of Akumal in this project, so if your child goes to school outside Akumal and wants to paint a flag, please contact Kaori to make sure they get an opportunity to be part of this event.

We are entering the Fall semester excited and energized, with a great group of children and volunteers. We’ve already had some great classes, including an introduction to scuba where the children made cardboard scuba gear and practiced how to descend and underwater communication. Every second Saturday you’ll find us in the ocean for real, learning to swim and just enjoying the beauty of Akumal bay.

Coming up on Oct 30th we are planning a bazaar to be held in the Akumal Pueblo. We are asking for donations of good quality clothing, small household items, and toys to sell to benefit Hekab Be. We’d also love any old bicycles (working or non-working) that we can use at the library for the children. Please drop items off at the library during open hours.

If you’d like to share you expertise with the children by teaching a class, contact Kaori. Or stop by anytime and join in the fun. Classes are Monday through Friday from 3:00pm to 6:00pm, and Hekab Be is open weekdays between noon and 6:00pm, and Saturday mornings.

Thank you for everything you do to help us provide educational and cultural opportunities for the children of Akumal.

Summer is Coming at Hekab Be

It’s Nearly Time for Summer Camp!

That’s right; we’re already gearing up for our Curso de Verano 2018! This year’s theme is The Art and Culture of Mexico and we’re busy organizing a fun and education four weeks, but we need your help!

Can you afford $300 MX (approx. $15 USD) to sponsor a child to attend our summer day camp?  Donate HERE, and note ‘summer camp sponsorship’ on the form, and a child will attend camp thanks to you! We will allocate sponsorships on a needs basis, so you can be sure it will go to a deserving child. Remember, the link is Donate!

If you’d rather donate supplies, we are very short on art and school supplies. One of the things we do for each child at the end of summer is gift them a new backpack filled with supplies for the new school year. This is not just a fun gift for the child (there’s some pretty cool stuff out there!) but also takes the time and money burden of purchasing school supplies off the parents. Come visit it us at the library any day between 10am and 6pm to drop off your gift. Thank you!

What about donating yourself?! If you are in Akumal this summer, please consider spending a day or two with us as a volunteer during summer camp. What do you love doing? Sports, arts and crafts, nature, a life experience or an unusual career … Please join us and share your passion!

Summer camp will be held from Monday 16th of July through to Friday the 10th of August. All local children are welcome; please contact Kaori for more information or to enroll your children.

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Our School Time Weekly Activities

Too much time has passed since our last blog, and we have been working hard but always making time to play! We have classes every week day afternoon from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Monday and Thursday are for homework help and practical skills classes. On these days Kaori teaches a variety of subjects including mathematics, reading, cooking, English, and Japanese.

Tuesday’s are nature classes with Elizabeth, who is teaching the children how to care for the earth by recycling, planting an organic garden, and learning about local plants and wildlife.

Wednesday is Global Volunteers International (GVI) day, where the young adults volunteering with GVI here in Akumal come and teach the children. Every week the subject is different, and once they even performed a puppet show, which was a big hit!

Friday is the day that talented local artist Rory Eade comes to teach art. If you follow us on our Facebook page you’ll know that the artwork the children create with Rory is amazing.

And Saturday, of course, is BEACH DAY! The children walk just down the road to beautiful Akumal bay for two hours building sandcastles, learning to swim, and having fun in the sun! (With proper protection of course!)

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Spring Cleanup

We took advantage of the last of the cool weather to give our property a much needed spring cleaning! Volunteers from the community, local snorkel cooperatives, GVI, and of course our regular library crew all joined forces in a massive effort in which we:

  • Rebuilt the entranceway
  • Created a garden along the entrance path
  • Cleared the parking lot
  • Spread gravel on our entrance path
  • Cleared all the trash that had been dumped in the jungle behind the library
  • Moved rocks and leaves and cleared the boundaries of the library’s lot
  • Re-secured the fence and closed off the area behind the building …
  • … and lots more!

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Thank you to ….

A shout out to to super volunteers Eileen McCormick, Rozanne Quintero, Lisa Picardi, and all the amazing Hekab Be family of volunteers, staff and children who worked so hard to make this day happen. And of course, a big HOORAH to the super generous Akumal business community who donated materials and/or employees to help us out. You rock!

Please visit and support all the local businesses when you are in Akumal, as most of them are long-time Hekab Be supporters and are always on our thank you list.

Children’s Day and Mother’s Day Celebrations

Dia del Nino is always a BIG holiday in Mexico (and why not?) This year we had TWO celebrations – we took a trip to the ruins of Tulum, where we had a guided tour of the site and enjoyed a picnic. Then we had a big party at Hekab Be, with gifts, dancing, pinatas to bash, and a wonderful cake from Jen at Turtle Bay Cafe.

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Just a few weeks later it was time to celebrate our mothers. Mother’s day is always the 10th of May in Mexico, and that afternoon we invited all the families to join their children at the library for a party. We had more fun, games and cake, and the children all gave their mothers a handmade gift.

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NOTE: Due to low attendance last month, our community Mercado is on hold until after the summer. Check back with us in October or November!