La Raza plans week of Cinco de Mayo events

by Rebecca Czaplewski

A typical parade just isn’t enough of a Cinco de Mayo celebration for the members of La Raza Student Cultural Center .
Rather than simply a single event, the center is sponsoring a week-long celebration with speakers, films and workshops that highlight Chicano history. The events continue through Saturday.
“If you don’t know about it, it means it’s just a parade,” said Ernest Rogers, La Raza member and a senior in the Carlson School of Management. “Then you lose the meaning to it.”
To ensure the meaning of Cinco de Mayo doesn’t get lost on anyone, La Raza’s week of activities features events focusing on the past, present and future of Chicanos; it’s also Chicano and Chicana Pride Week at the University.
Brenda Vazquez, La Raza member and chairwoman of Cinco de Mayo week, said the events can help educate students about Chicano culture.
“It’s a big way to draw attention to the Chicano movement and culture — to educate people,” Vazquez said.
May 5 commemorates the day the Mexican army defeated the French Army in 1862, led by General Ignacio Zaragoza.
Chicano Studies Professor Dennis ValdÇs led a discussion on Zaragoza at the cultural center on Wednesday afternoon. He spoke about Zaragoza’s life and the history of the celebration of Cinco de Mayo.
ValdÇs said celebrations were popular as early as the 1870s in Mexico and Mexican communities in the United States, although popularity later dwindled.
“It really got a shot in the arm with the Chicano movement,” ValdÇs said. He also noted La Raza was a large part of the celebration’s popularity in the Twin Cities.
By featuring student discussions, art and food workshops and a dance throughout the week, La Raza members hope to educate and inform people about their culture — and, of course, to have fun.
Jaime Sandoval, a freshman in the Institute of Technology originally from California, said he was pleased to see the celebrations in Minnesota.
“It’s a really strong part of the Mexican culture for me; I’ve celebrated it since I was small,” Sandoval said. “It gives Mexicans a chance to be proud of themselves — and it’s a great way to have fun.”