A Luna Fest

by Cesar Garza

The stated objective for the Luna Family Reunion is to celebrate heritage, culture, history and family pride and unity.

Adrian and Maria Luna were married in 1905. They had 17 children, eight of whom survived to adulthood. Today there are over 700 descendants, 300 of them in the Chicago area and the rest scattered throughout the United States, Mexico, Germany and Japan. Almost half are under the age of 25, and 89 are under the age of 10. In the past 20 years, 6.7 family members have been born per year. During 77 years in Chicago, the family intermarried with many other ethnic groups.

Preparations for the Luna Family Reunion 2001 took a year. A committee was created from ten branches of the Luna family. At mini-reunions, committee members brought a dish to share with everyone at each meeting. The committee decided upon a three-day celebration which would give members plenty of time to meet families traveling from Mexico and California. Volunteers were recruited to plan activities. Some were in charge of the banquet hall, DJ, registration and picnic activities planned for Saturday. Members brought their favorite dishes to share for one of the biggest potlucks many of us had seen. We had frijoles a la charra, rice, carnitas, arroz con candules, lasagna, potato salad, cake, tortillas, arrachera, hot dogs, hamburgers, ribs and many other delicious American, Mexican, Polish, Italian, Puerto Rican, and German dishes that represent the Lunas multiculturalism.

The weekend started Friday with a glamorous banquet in Crestwood, Illinois. Over 200 family members enjoyed a great evening of food, dance and excitement, meeting new relatives and catching up with the old. During the evening the family danced to House Music, Cumbias, Nortenas, Merengue, Salsa, Pop Music, Spanish Rock, Rancheras and Tejano Music.

The theme was “We are Family: The Luna Legacy Continues.” Adrian and Maria would not have imagined the legacy they left, and the family of over 700 descendants keeps growing. The oldest family member at the reunion was 88-year-old Esperanza Luna; youngest was Estefania de la Torre, only one month old.

On Saturday temperatures hovered over 90. Some members arrived early to set up. Taking the group photo of approximately 350 family members preceded a day full of fun with the annual tug-of-war, softball, piñatas, baby races, hoola-hoop competition, potato sack races, water balloon fights, baseball and football, as well as games for small children. The tug-of-war brought everyone together. There were competitions for women, men and children. Everyone seemed to have fun whether they lost or won. It was not about losing or winning but about having an enjoyable time. A talent show showcased family members. The younger children danced to el Jarape Tapatio, the most typical dances in Mexico. Others sang Spanish and English music.

Sunday morning everyone enjoyed a Catholic Mass at St. Francis of Assisi parish, where in the 1920s the first Luna immigrants put down roots. It is where the oldest Lunas were married and baptized. It is also special because in 1992 this church was ready for destruction, but survived urban renewal as an historic church to Chicago’s Mexican population. After Mass, Esperanza Luna — the one who settled in the old neighborhood — gave a tour of where the family lived.

After the walking tour, we headed for Original Jim’s hot dog stand to have the famous Maxwell Street polish sausages; for many family members it has been a tradition to snack on these sausages, some of the best in the city. Nearby a blues band was playing, so we went and danced. The band realized that the majority of the people were Mexican, so they changed their tunes to Spanish.

After all the dancing, we showed our beautiful city to our family from a rented double-decker bus. Both Mexican and American flags hung from the top deck. We strolled along Greek Town, State Street, Michigan Avenue and Lake Shore Drive. There was a quick stop to take a family picture with Chicago’s beautiful skyline in the background. Coming back after the bus tour was the sad part of the reunion, as the three-day reunion was coming to an end.

Future plans include another reunion in Chicago. The following year there will be two reunions, one in Chicago and a Monterrey mega-family reunion where members from Monterrey, Guanajuato and Mexico City will predominate. Lunas living in the US will have an opportunity to learn more about the culture and country their great-grandparents left.

About the author
César Garza is a Program Evaluation Specialist the Chicago Mayor’s Office of Workforce Development. A native of Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood, he holds a BA from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and has completed graduate coursework at Chicago State University. He is an active member of the Chicago Historical Society.