The one mile long stretch of the 23rd Street in Richmond was filled to capacity with people who took part in the 5th annual Cinco the Mayo street festival on Sunday, which was organized by the 23rd Street Merchants Association.
The holiday has its roots in the Mexican victory over France at the battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. Many Mexican American communities celebrate this day as the symbol of Mexican culture and heritage.
“We don’t celebrate it in Mexico,” said Grizelda Moran, who emigrated to California in 1991. “Independence Day, which falls on September 16, is much more important. But it is nice to have this festival of Mexican culture here.”
It seems that many Bay Area citizens think the same, as it was almost impossible to find an empty space on 23rd Street between Clinton Ave and Rheem Ave. Mexican culture was celebrated with three music stages, presentations by various local organizations and businesses including Richmond’s police and fire brigade, the United States Marine Corps and the Boy Scouts, and countless food stands and stalls, where one could try burritos and tacos, buy Mexican souvenirs or get a free health screening.
“We are giving away pamphlets of information about safe behavior, as well as some special fire equipment for kids,” said Elizabeth de Dios from the Richmond Fire Department as she worked at the department’s stall. “Last year, our stand was visited by 28,000 people. This time we expect even more.”
In addition to sitting in a fire engine or police car, kids could play in many bouncy castles, have their faces painted, take a ride on a mini-train, or talk to a wizard.
“I am here today to promote literacy,” said Don Delcollo, who was wearing a black robe and pointy hat and was portraying a “Reading Wizard,” directing children and their parents towards the stand occupied by the representatives of West County Reads campaign. “The goal is to get parents to read aloud with children every day. We have around 3,000 free books to give,” he said.
“We are a volunteer collaborative aimed at promoting literacy,” explained Kevin Hufferd, the campaign’s chairman. “We’re giving away free books and English-Spanish dictionaries today. And kids just love it. You can clearly see the joy on their face when they find the book they like.”
One of the stalls on the 23rd Street was devoted to Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park. “It is very important for us to be here today, as Hispanic-Americans are part of the city’s history and part of the history of the second World War,” said park ranger Raphael Allen. “We want to promote the park among the community, but also encourage its members to bring their story to us.”