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STOCKTON’S MEXICAN HERITAGE Center and Gallery organized the annual ‘Sopas de Amor’ at their downtown abode in Stockton on Friday evening.

Translated to “soups of love,” Sopas de Amor has been organized annually for four years, celebrating Valentine’s Day with a variety of soups, drinks and Mariachi music.

Armando Valerio, organizer and board member of the Mexican Heritage Center, said the nonprofit organization hosts this event to raise funds.

“We are always looking for fundraisers,” Valerio said, “so we said, ‘Okay, let’s try Sopas de Amor,’ which is soups of love, and we do right around Valentine’s Day.”

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Valerio shared that the heritage center put the soups together itself during the first year, which turned out to be a daunting task.

“It was a little tough. And then we said, ‘Well, why don’t we reach out to restaurants and see if any restaurants are interested?’ And the restaurants are really interested,” Valerio added.

The heritage center used restaurants for the first time in 2022, and it turned out to be a big success, Valerio said.

The event served a variety of soups from 12 different restaurants from Stockton, Lodi and Lathrop. On the menu were Lentejas con Pollo, Albondigas, Chicken Tortilla Soup, Salvadorian Chicken Soup, Menudo, Frijoles Charros, Carne en su Jugo, Birria, Pozole, Sopas de Habas and Caldo de Marisco.

Participating restaurants included Sugar Mediterranean Bistro, Miguel’s Mexican Restaurant, La Palma Mexican Cuisine, Arroyo’s Mexican Cafe, Don Luis’ and El Senor Frog’s, among others.

San Joaquin County Supervisor Miguel Villapudua serves his signature Pozole during “Sopas de Amor” at Mexican Heritage Center in Stockton on Feb. 10, 2023. (Harika Maddala/Bay City News/Catchlight Local)

San Joaquin County Supervisor Miguel Villapudua was among those who returned to Sopas de Amor this year to present his renowned Pozole soup. Villapudua, who grew up on a farm with parents who loved to cook, shared that his mother taught him to how to make dishes such as Birria, Pozole and Menudo.

“I took a liking to Pozole,” the supervisor said. “When I got an office as a supervisor in San Joaquin County, I thought it’d be a good idea to make it for the community.”

Villapudua said the soup became a big hit when he started making it six years ago. “People love it, so I keep doing it,” he added.

Among the highlights of the event was live music performance by Edison High School’s Mariachi band, followed by Central California musician David Perry Molina.

Harika Maddala is a photojournalist based in Stockton covering San Joaquin County for Bay City News Foundation and its nonprofit news site Local News Matters. They are a Report for America corps member and a CatchLight Local Fellow.