Published On: Fri, May 3rd, 2013

Cinco de Mayo not another word for St. Patrick’s Day

By Samantha Mellman

This Sunday on May 5th whether you are young or old, have a big or small family and would like to experience an event that truly captures the spirit of Mexico, visit the Cinco de Mayo festival at the Old School Square in Delray Beach for a day of celebration.

Since the Mexican victory over the French forces in 1862, Cinco de Mayo has transformed from an annual celebration in the city of Puebla, Mexico to a nationwide celebration in the United States. For Americans who are not of Mexican heritage from my observations, sometimes confuse the holiday for a few things: Mexican Independence day, national tequila drinking day, and dawning a sombrero and poncho day. These are common and ignorant misconceptions of what it means to celebrate Mexican culture and pride.

Janie Ramirez, from Pasadena, Texas founded the Cinco de Mayo festival 15 years ago. Ramirez said that her event is “family oriented”. It could be bigger but she wants to keep the atmosphere of family and kids.

Many events in South Florida can be an all day and night drinking festivals such as St. Patrick’s Day. On St. Patrick’s Day people wear their green apparel and pretend to be Irish and make the day a 24-hour party.  The Cinco de Mayo festival in Delray Beach will be the opposite by emphasizing the characteristics and traditions of Mexican culture.

Organizers will provide Mariachi bands, authentic food, traditional dancing, and the site of Chihuahuas racing to a finish line. Children can also enjoy face painting, piñata breaking, and musical entertainment.

Many of the attendees of the event were born in America but desire to learn about their culture. “The families that are from Mexico, or other nationalities, say wow this is neat, this is how Hispanics are,” Ramirez said, “The families teach their children the culture and they do not want them to forget that,” She said, “The little ones that are growing up now, there’s time not to forget their cultura like we say, and the ones that are older really have forgotten and just think oh it’s party time.”

Minnie Garcia is master of ceremonies for the Cinco de Mayo festival and her purpose is to introduce the musical and dancing acts. She said the children at the event take part in activities that represent Mexican culture such as: maraca painting, papel picado (paper cutting decorations), and creating their own piñatas. Garcia said, “Anything that has a cultural tie to it, we make it available to the children.”

One of the highlights of the event is a chili pepper eating contest. Adults 18 and older sign a waiver and try to eat as many peppers as they can and hope that the inflicted spice burns are worth a small prize such as a gift card.

“The event draws a large crowd and is fun to watch,” Garcia said.

“All nationalities attend the festival, they learn not only about the Mexican community but also other Latin American countries are represented either in the food vendors or the arts and crafts that are sold,” Garcia said.

The organizers believe that their version of the Cinco de Mayo celebration is one that commemorates Mexican culture and has become a fun and exciting day to be a part of, no matter what nationality you are.

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