By Janet Bresenham
A festive mood filled the American Legion Post #25 Saturday night, as people of all ages and backgrounds celebrated a Cinco de Mayo festival with music, dancing and food.
The evening was organized as a fund-raiser for the Clovis Community College Cultural Arts Series.
“It’s supporting the cultural arts,” said CCC Cultural Arts Director Christy Mendoza. “The restaurant owners who helped us donated all the food, so all the money could go to the college to bring in more cultural events in Clovis for free or low cost.”
A $10 admission ticket enabled festival participants to eat a variety of food from area restaurants.
Mimi Garza, who owns Juanito’s Restaurant with her husband Juan, said they wanted to help, in part because this was the first year for the college’s Cinco de Mayo festival.
In addition to dinner, festival goers were treated to mariachi music and a dazzling demonstration of salsa dancing by Suzanne Carrell, 20, a CCC cosmetology student from Portales, and Richard Keane, 19, a freshman physical therapy student at Eastern New Mexico University, who moved to the United States five years ago from Spain.
Midway through the evening, children also gathered to take their turns swinging at a large pinata made by two CCC students.
Organizers said the diversity of the celebration was important as a way of bringing various cultures together.
“We wanted this to be more of a community-minded event,” said Tom Drake, the assistant to the president at Clovis Community College. “Cinco de Mayo is a time to celebrate, really, and that’s what this event is for. I think it’s great that we have so many people from all walks of life here.”
The celebration of Cinco de Mayo dates back to May 5, 1862, and marks the resistance and victory by people in the town of Puebla, Mexico, against the French military who were trying to reach Mexico City.
Drake, whose mother’s side of the family hail from a Mexican ancestry, said Cinco de Mayo was always a significant event for his family.
For Mendoza, the Cinco de Mayo event provided a way to honor her family’s roots in Mexico and educate others.
“It’s great to see so many cultures here together,” Mendoza said. “Cinco de Mayo is a way of sharing and showing our heritage with everyone and our pride in Mexico. I’m the first generation in my family who was born in the United States, because even my mother is from Mexico.”