By Veronica Coons 530News –
Ask most people what they know about Cinco de Mayo, and most will tell you it is Mexican Independence Day. To the contrary, it is not a celebration of Mexican independence. Mexico was a already a recognized state, under attack by France at the time. Their premise was debt collection, but in context, it was an expansionist land grab.
In 1862, after being pushed back from the coast to the town of Puebla, the Mexican Army, outnumbered, defeated the better-equipped French on May 5. Today, that victory is celebrated both in Mexico and America, and will be observed in Great Bend this year on Saturday afternoon, May 6.
Downtown at Jack Kilby Square is where the fun will be this weekend. With the weather expected to be sunny and mild, other smaller events, including a city-sponsored taco meal on Friday and a car show at Brit Spaugh Park on Sunday afternoon, will make this a busy one in the city.
The Cinco de Mayo parade is set to start at 11 a.m., Saturday, May 6, at Brit Spaugh Park. From there, the parade will travel south to Lakin Avenue. Jose Hernandez, one of the organizers of Saturday’s celebration, said at the head of the parade will be the display of the American flag and the Mexican flag, highlighting the cultural exchange represented by the gathering. Next up will be the 2016 Cinco de Mayo Queen, Karina Silva, and the 2017 Cinco de Mayo Queen, Joanna Sanchez, followed by the rest of the parade line-up.
Sanchez is a Great Bend High School freshman, a three sport athlete, member of Future Educators of America, Kayettes, and El Sol folk dancing club. Unfortunately, she said, practices and sports events kept her from El Sol practice, so she will not be performing with the rest of the dancers this weekend. In her essay, she said she wanted to be the Cinco de Mayo Queen in order to represent her family’s heritage. She has her sights set on college, loves children, and hasn’t decided yet if she wants to be a teacher or a pediatrician.
After the parade, the action moves to the Thelma Faye Harms Stage at the Clayton L. Moses Band Shell where an invocation will be delivered, followed by some words from Silva and Sanchez. Then, a Salina band, “Tamborazo Original Zacatecano,” will perform traditional Mexican music throughout the afternoon, with other local entertainment provided during breaks.
El Sol will perform traditional Mexican dances, and with the weather expected to be in the mid-70s, vendors will fill the square, providing opportunities to taste a variety of Mexican treats and specialties. Hernandez anticipates the event will wrap up at 4 p.m.
Celebrated here and in Mexico
The Battle of Puebla didn’t conclude the war with France. Mexico held its own for many years, until in 1867 with the Civil War concluded, the United States was finally in a position to help and France was finally sent on its way. Some scholars, according to Wikipedia, believe if the French had not lost this battle, they may have gone on to assist the Confederates, possibly changing the outcome for the United States.
In the United States, starting in the 1960s, the holiday came to be a celebration of Mexican culture and heritage, spurred by the work of Chicano activists fighting for Mexican Americans’ civil rights and battling against ethnic stereotypes.
In Mexico, the celebrations occur mostly in Puebla, with military parades, battle reenactments and other festivities. But, it’s not a federal holiday, so for most of the country, it’s business as usual. Mexican Independence Day is Sept. 16, marking the day in 1810 that Mexico declared its independence from Spain.