City of Richmond, San Pablo embrace culture

Music, food attract community members during Cinco de Mayo


Cody Casares / The Advocate

Dancers with Danza Azteca Guadalupana perform for the crowd during the Cinco de Mayo Festival on 23rd Street on Sunday.

By Roxana Amparo, Associate Editor

RICHMOND — A diverse mass of people packed the annual Cinco de Mayo celebration as it manifested into a colorful and cheerful community gathering on 23rd Street in Richmond on Saturday and Sunday.

Cinco de Mayo is celebrated through local street vendors, parades and dance performances with live music and entertainment.

The festival is in commemoration of the Mexican army’s victory over France at the Battle of Puebla during the Mexican War in 1862.

Throughout Mexico and in the U.S., “Bailes folklóricos” (folkloric dances) emphasize local folk culture and dramatic movement as women dress in colorful layered dresses.

A group of adults and children danced and strutted on horses through the neighborhood on Market Avenue as community members lined the sidewalks during the parade on Saturday.

During the parade, local elementary and high school students held signs and performed while marching down the street.

Monica Serano, a Richmond resident, said this year’s parade lacked organization. The performances were more spaced out, but there were still (a lot) of people.

“It’s fun to see people from different ethnic backgrounds gather to enjoy the parade, and it makes everyone proud to be part of the celebration.”

The people of Richmond, and the Bay Area, embraced Mexican and Latino cultures during the Cinco de Mayo parade on Saturday on 23rd Street to Market Avenue. They did not let the warm weather get in the way of the annual celebration.

Contra Costa College’s African-American and La Raza studies department Chairperson Agustin Palacios was at the college’s booth on 23rd Street and Church Lane handing out information about the various programs and courses offered on campus.

“It’s about bringing the community together,” Dr. Palacios said. “It’s about ethnic solidarity.”

CCC’s Outreach Coordinator Dona DeRusso, also at the festival, said, “I love the culture. I don’t have Hispanic heritage in me, but it is important for us to honor (the culture).”

DeRusso said she was helping promote the programs CCC has to offer for not only incoming freshman, but also for adults and kids.

Among the vendors selling goods were members of the community meandering along stands with traditional colorful, patterned dresses and other garments ranging from $30-$65.

San Francisco Mission District resident Ricardo Peña said, “Tengo que trabajar para vivir. Cinco de Mayo es una oportunidad para mí, para poder vendor,” (I have to work to be able to live. Cinco de Mayo is an opportunity for me to be able to sell my goods).

Peña said the jewelry he was selling at the event was handmade and brought from Mexico.

Games and raffles targeted the younger attendees, drawing a crowd of parents and children to the lines.

Children were able to spin the wheel to receive a prize of their choice, including teddy bears, candy and raffle tickets.

The smells of kettle corn, grilled chicken and grilled corn attracted lines at food vendor stands.

Mangonadas, the popular mango and chamoy-filled drink was made to order as well as coconut water in its shell. The celebration was an alcohol-free event.

Palacios said, “We need to remember it is not ‘Drinko de Mayo’. It’s not a beer corporation event.”

He said the event started as a fundraiser in Puebla and was carried to California and throughout the Southwest as Mexican immigrants crossed the border.

“We have $1 waters, glitter tattoos and free bike rodeo,” Richmond Police Officer Orlando Guzman said.

Children were able to receive one-on-one bike lessons at the Richmond Police Department’s stand.

“We are showing them we are out here with them,” Guzman said. “We are giving (the community) a sense of comfort.”

Palo Alto resident Da-Kay Arroya said, “I like that there isn’t a lot of drama. Security is not an issue.”

St. Paul’s Catholic Church festival coordinator Cathy Domon said, “(Cinco de Mayo celebration) is important because we have a church commitment. This is where the Filipino, Vietnamese, Hispanic and American community gather to fundraise.”

A kid-friendly mechanical bull allowed parents to take pictures of their children on a two-minute ride for $5.

Juan Laza, an El Sobrante resident said, “Yo crecí con el ganado. Hay muchos ninos que le tienen miedo a los animales.

“Son nuestras raíces y no es la de allí que les tengan miedo,” (I was born with the herd. There are a lot of kids that are afraid of animals. Those are our roots and it isn’t right that they are afraid of them), Laza said.

Laza’s 4-year-old son Juan Laza Jr., dressed in boots and a cowboy hat, rode a mechanical bull during the festival.

Laza Sr. said as Salvadorans they usually like to celebrate Independence Day on Sept. 15, but this is the third year at the event, they have supported their community.

Domon said although there have been problems in the past, the event remained peaceful.

Throughout the festival there were police officers making sure the event was running smoothly.

The live performance from members of Azteca 50, Bay Area TV channel and 93.3 La Raza, radio station kept its audience entertained.

The Cinco De Mayo event was sponsored by the City of Richmond Kaiser Permanente, Republic Services Inc., a waste management company, Chevron and others.