What does Cinco de Mayo mean?
SUMMIT COUNTY – If you ask local Hispanics how important Cinco de Mayo is to them, you’ll get a full spectrum of answers.
The national Mexican holiday commemorates the Mexican army’s defeat of the French on May 5, 1862 in the battle of Pueblo. When the outnumbered Mexican army won, the victory became a symbol of Mexican unity and patriotism.
“It was an important battle to win,” said Jose Polanco, who moved to Summit County from Mexico two years ago and still has children living in Mexico. “For me, Cinco de Mayo is important.”
Polanco said he is too busy working this year to celebrate the holiday, but if he was in Mexico he would participate in the government-organized festivities.
When Cinco de Mayo falls on a weekend, a lot of Summit County locals drive to Denver to celebrate, said Silverthorne resident Hugo Reyes.
But for the most part, Cinco de Mayo is a quiet holiday in the mountains.
Patricia Cruz, who works at the Family and Intercultural Resource Center, said it would be hard to find Hispanics who celebrate Cinco de Mayo.
When Julie Ludwig, manager of Mi Casa, which hosts a Cinco de Mayo celebration today, asked her Hispanic cooks about Cinco de Mayo, they didn’t see what the big fuss was about. Only about 2-3 percent of patrons at Mi Casa’s annual Cinco de Mayo fundraiser are Hispanic, Ludwig said.
“Cinco de Mayo’s not important, not even in Mexico,” said Rodrigo De Lira, who works in Summit County during the week and lives in Denver on weekends. “They don’t have parties like here. If you ask what Cinco de Mayo means for you, some people don’t even know.”
Still, De Lira sees Cinco de Mayo celebrations growing.
“Every year is getting bigger and bigger,” De Lira said. “I think it’s growing because people choose that day to take advantage to celebrate something.”
“They were just waiting for some day to go outside and celebrate something – it’s for drinking,” said De Lira’s friend, Eduardo Rojo.
Carlos Diaz, owner of Fiesta Jalisco in Avon, sees Cinco de Mayo as a commercial holiday. More people come to his restaurant on May 5, but he said the holiday “is not really important.”
“It’s a good day to go out to a Mexican place and try different stuff for a lot less than you would normally pay for it,” Diaz said.
Most Hispanics agree Sept. 16, Mexican Independence Day, is much more important. It’s akin to the United States’ Fourth of July. It recalls the day in 1810 when revolutionary priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla issued a proclamation declaring Mexico independent from Spain.
Before 1988, when Magdalena Fregoso, a waitress at Fiesta Jalisco, moved to Summit County from Mexico, she and her family and friends traveled four hours to hear Mexico’s president speak to the people on Sept. 16. Now she watches the festivities on Spanish television.
Despite the importance of Sept. 16, the future of Cinco de Mayo looks good – even in the High Country.
Lalo Quintero, owner of Tortilleria la Carniceria in Frisco, thinks business owners should organize a celebration with food and music. He participates in similar festivities in Carbondale, where he lives.
“It can be a big party,” Quintero said.
Kimberly Nicoletti can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 245, or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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