Tacos, Chihuahuas and low riders.
Cinco de Mayo is right around the corner. But no Cinco de Mayo celebration would be complete without the music and the dancers in their colorful costumes.
“It’s the cherry on top of the event,” said Jeanette Trujillo-Lucero, director of Fiesta Colorado Dance Company who is managing the community stage for Newsed’s annual Cinco de Mayo Celebrate Culture Festival.
Newsed Community Development Corporation is a community-based nonprofit with a mission “to promote and develop economic, community programs and projects that raise the income, educational and political levels of Denver residents,” states its website.
Newsed has been putting on the Cinco de Mayo Celebrate Culture Festival since 1988. It got its start on Santa Fe Drive in west Denver, and because of its popularity, it was moved to take place at Civic Center Park annually sometime in the 1990s. Denver’s event has now grown to be one of the largest in the country.
After not being able to have the event for the past two years because of COVID, the annual event is back for 2022. The Cinco de Mayo Celebrate Culture Festival takes place from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. May 7 and May 8 at Civic Center Park in Denver.
“We’re very excited to bring the event back,” said Andrea Barela, president and CEO of Newsed. “Both days will offer plenty to experience.”
This year’s highlights include three stages of entertainment that will feature musical and dance performances, Chihuahua races, taco eating contests, arts and crafts vendors, a low rider car show and a community parade.
The lineups for the three stages will be announced soon, but Barela leaked that the entertainment will truly be the best, with each stage featuring unique aspects of Mexican, Hispanic-American, Latinx and Chicano/a culture. The main stage will host regional groups such as mariachi, banda and Mexican rock. The local stage will host local bands that perform a range of genres from hip hop to Latin jazz. The community stage will host traditional music and dance groups — this is where one can experience baile folklórico, or, folkloric dances.
“In Mexico, each state has its own dance, costuming and music that comes from that region,” Trujillo-Lucero said.
For example, the white dresses can be associated with Veracruz, and the colorful dresses — the most popular — come from Jalisco, which is thought to be where mariachi originated.
When Fiesta Colorado Dance Company performs, the dances are announced and its origins are explained “so the audience gets to learn about the culture,” Trujillo-Lucero said. “When you go to the fiestas (the Cinco de Mayo Celebrate Culture Festival), you’ll get to experience the whole spectrum of it all.”
Cinco de Mayo celebrates the Mexican army’s May 5, 1862, victory over France at the Battle of Puebla — which is a south-central Mexican state — during the Franco-Mexican War.
The significance of this one battle is that the Mexican army defeated the French, which was supported by heavy artillery, despite being vastly outnumbered and poorly supplied.
“Like St. Patrick’s Day, these events aren’t widely celebrated in their country of origin, but they are in the U.S.,” Barela said. “Here in Denver, Cinco de Mayo goes way, way back.”
According to popular belief, the U.S.’ Mexican Americans celebrated Cinco de Mayo as an act of resistance during the late 1800s. Circa the 1960s, Mexican-American youths celebrated Cinco de Mayo to demonstrate pride and ownership of joint heritages, and Chicano activists — identifying with the struggle of the Mexican army in Puebla — used the day to raise awareness to civil injustices.
Today and locally, Newsed’s Cinco de Mayo event offers a fun way to learn, experience and celebrate culture.
“This event is like experiencing Mexico in Denver,” Barela said. “If you don’t know much about Mexican culture, now is your opportunity to experience it.”