¡Cinco De Mayo!
Since Cinco de Mayo will be on a weekday, the festivities around Los Angeles were held over the weekend to celebrate Mexican culture and heritage.
But why is Cinco De Mayo celebrated?
Cinco de Mayo or "the fifth of May" in English, is the celebration of the victory of the Battle of Puebla more than 140 years ago.
The story goes that in 1861, the country of Mexico was in great financial ruin and because of this, the president of Mexico, Benito Juarez could no longer pay off the debts to his European creditors, the countries of France, Britain, and Spain.
Because of this, all three countries sent naval forces to the city of Veracruz for repayment. After negotiations, Britain and Spain decided to withdraw troops and go back to their countries but France who was under the rule of Napoleon the third did not back down and waged war on Mexico sending the president and the government into hiding.
Figuring that they would win, France sent a mere 6,000 troops to attack La Puebla de Los Angeles, a small town in east-central Mexico. On the fifth of May in 1862, 2,000 loyal Mexicans fought against the French from daybreak to early evening.
When the French retreated, less than 100 Mexicans had been killed compared to the 500 French soldiers killed. This would be the start of a six-year war with the French, but with the Mexican resistance, victory would prevail on their side.
It is a national holiday in Mexico, and here Mexican Americans or Chicanos celebrate their heritage with festivities held around the country.
At L.A.'s famous Olvera Street, the birthplace of this city, its beautiful architecture looked striking as they celebrated the famous holiday over three days. The Gazebo in the town square held dances and mariachi bands with beautiful music that could be heard all around the little "pueblo."
While the music was playing, a medium-sized crowd enjoyed tacos and burritos and souvenirs such as purses and ethnic dresses of many colors. At the other end of Olvera Street among more food shops and souvenirs were gigantic jumpers designed like dinosaurs, a tiger, and the famous Titanic ship vessel. With the outbreak of the swine flu in Mexico, there was a significant decline of people at the event but that didn't stop some people from coming.
"I figured some people would not come because of the outbreak, people don't want to get sick but I came with my family because we always come," said Margarita Hernandez who came with her family to enjoy the festivities.
For those in the Santa Monica area who could not head out downtown, there was an event held at Virginia Park, blocks away from Santa Monica College that captured the same spirit Olvera Street had only it was a bit more relaxing and care free.
Virginia Park held the Cinco de Mayo Fiesta and classic Car show with food, carnival games, and folk dancing and music.
With a mariachi band from Jalisco singing favorite songs to a large audience and a samba band, there was also folkloric dancing from regions of Mexico such as Yucatan, Michoacan, and Baja California.
Girls dolled up with ribbons in their hair, with beautiful colorful skirts, and white long sleeved shirts with rose embroideries danced beautifully at dances from Michoacan. For the Baja California dances, the dance and style seemed reminiscent of Texas with girls dressed up in single colored skirts, plain white long sleeved shirts and cowboy's boots and boys dressed in cowboy fashion.
"I love that there are people enjoying themselves, not just Chicanos but other people too, from other races enjoying our heritage," said Maria Sanchez, fellow Chicana.
"Yes, this is a great event. Mexicans together enjoying life, enjoying their heritage, many people think we are an inferior race, but we are not, we are one of many immigrants who have made this nation and that is what this country is made of, a melting pot of immigrants and different cultures," said Ernestina Salazar who has been in this country since the '70s and proud to be Mexican- American.
There was much to do at the event, from eating hot dogs or tamales with Jamba Juice, playing ring toss, or perusing the Mexican style dresses, jewelry and decorations for sale, you could not help but see the majesty and grandeur of the classic cars.
The cars definitely stole the show. Lines and lines of vintage cars, Chevy impalas of every color, low riders tinted in colors of yellow, orange and blue, Ford police cars of the '30s, Chevy Bel-Air tail fins from the nostalgic '50s with colors of red and light blue, muscle cars from the '70s, even a Volkswagen vehicle from 1951 which originally came with its own set of tools and a spare tire. At one point, everyone showed off their car horns that were so different and loud than the ones used today, the whole park sounded like a symphony of earsplitting music. All of this to say:
Happy Cinco De Mayo!