Students, community

Paul Concannon

Although it occurred three days early, thousands of people converged Saturday in West St. Paul for an all-day Cinco de Mayo celebration.
More than 20 University students, mostly members of the La Raza Student Cultural Center, participated in the parade and celebration. A multicultural mass of people wandered down several streets lined on both sides with food booths, jewelry, clothing and novelty vendors, beer gardens and music.
“Cinco de Mayo is a Mexican holiday but it has become an American holiday, too,” said Elvira Carrizal, a La Raza member. Carrizal added that, though she had a great time, she feels that Cinco de Mayo has become “like a happy hour.”
“If you know the history, it is a big celebration,” she said.
Cinco de Mayo is a Mexican holiday, but is not an independence day. The holiday commemorates May 5, 1862, the day the Mexican army defended the city of Puebla from a much stronger French army. The holiday grew when it was adopted by the Chicano movement in the 1960s as a symbol of success in the face of overwhelming odds.
Steady afternoon rain dampened the celebration Saturday, but Rowdy Duncan, a member of La Raza who came to the University from San Antonio, said despite the weather, the celebration was fun and reminded him of home.
Luis Gonzalez, La Raza’s representative in the Minnesota Student Association, said he was gratified to see so many people attend the celebration and support the Chicano community.
La Raza members went to the celebration to support the Latino community and as a part of its own series of Cinco de Mayo events, which began on Friday and will continue through Tuesday.
The center is sponsoring panel discussions and other learning opportunities during its celebration of Cinco de Mayo and will also hold activities like a Mariachi band and a Mexican cuisine class.
Nancy “Rusty” Barcelo, associate vice president for minority affairs and diversity, said La Raza members were not the only University students to attend or participate in the celebration Saturday but that it was difficult to tell how many had.
Barcelo took part in the parade, and along with Goldy Gopher represented the University at large.