For the fifth year in a row, Little Village has no parade for Cinco de Mayo, an often misunderstood holiday – Chicago Tribune

While some may have been looking for drink specials and tacos on Cinco de Mayo, Chicago’s Mexican communities for 40 years celebrated the holiday by commemorating the Batalla de Puebla in Little Village with a parade down Cermak Road and a festival .

Until 2018, when the tradition went off the rails.

They have been unable to organize the parade and festival since 2018 due to misunderstandings between the organizers and 12th Ward Ald. George Cardenas when he showed lack of support for the event. Héctor Escobar, president of Casa Puebla and the Cermak Road Chamber of Commerce, said: “These problems were a thing of the past. Cardenas declined to comment.

2022 was going to be the year of his comeback, but COVID-19 had other plans.

Casa Puebla and the Cermak Road Chamber of Commerce, the organizations planning the Cinco de Mayo festivities in Little Village, had been planning for the return of the parade and festival since November.

The organizations had invited bands, school groups, charros, mariachis, dancers, ornate floats, local businesses to hold food and craft stalls and 4,000 people from Puebla, Mexico to participate in the parade which would have taken place on Sunday 1st May. They expected about 100,000 people from the Little Village community and throughout Chicago to come enjoy the parade and a festival in Douglass Park, as they had done since 1978.

Everything was canceled after an outbreak of COVID-19 in early April in the organizers’ office. All 12 in-person workers fell ill with the virus, and the manager of Casa Puebla has been in critical condition since then, Escobar said.

“Health comes first because without health we have nothing and that’s the biggest thing this pandemic has taught us,” Escobar said in the cancellation announcement. “It’s a shame that we couldn’t do the festival and the parade this year because we were going to incorporate new cultural and educational elements into the parade to teach people what really happened during the Batalla de Puebla on Cinco de Mayo.”

Cinco de Mayo isn’t a big party in Mexico — certainly not as big as its commercial presence in the United States — but it’s a pretty big party in the state of Puebla, where Escobar is from.

The Batalla de Puebla took place on May 5, 1862, near the city of Puebla during the second French intervention in Mexico. The battle followed then-President Benito Juárez’s decision to stop paying interest on amounts owed to France and other countries. French troops therefore intervened to take control of the country, according to the Smithsonian. The battle ended with a victory for Mexican troops – formed mainly from local Poblanos and indigenous groups – who outnumbered the French.

“(That battle) was against the very, very strong French army, and so really (Mexico) shouldn’t have won that battle, but because they were very spirited to defend their land, they were able to defeat the French “, said Cesareo Moreno. , director of visual arts and chief curator of the National Museum of Mexican Art in Pilsen. “This battle really inspired the rest of the country to rally against the stronger invading French army.

“I can’t help but think about what is happening in Ukraine: there is a very powerful country trying to take over a smaller country and this foreign country seems to be holding its own. So there’s a lot to be said for defending your own land against an invader and how much strength or power can come from a few early victories in battle.

The French eventually overran the Mexicans in subsequent battles, but the Mexican victory at Puebla against a better equipped force gave the Mexicans a patriotic boost.

People in other parts of Mexico celebrate it with school bailables (dances) commemorating the date, but not as big as the Poblanos. During Cinco de Mayo, the tiny village of Chicago transforms into a little part of Puebla, celebrating it like they do at home for the more than 50,000 Poblanos who live throughout Chicagoland and other community members who come join them in celebrating their “Latinidad”.

But there are many Mexicans living in the United States who are confused by the importance of this celebration.

“(Cinco de Mayo) has perfect timing because it’s kind of like spring and people are excited to get out there and start doing things again, and it comes before Memorial Day, which is like the official start of the summer,” Moreno said. “I think it’s really become that kind of memorial day in the United States, where people get the facts mixed up and often think it’s a Latin American celebration.”

“My family is from northern Mexico, and it was never something we celebrated in my community,” 22nd Ward Ald said. Michael Rodriguez.

Jorge Ríos, manager of the restaurant Mi Tierra en La Villita, originally from the state of Guerrero in Mexico, echoed the alderman.

“People in the United States think that day is independence from Mexico, but it’s actually September 16,” Ríos said.

However, Ríos and Rodríguez both agreed that while this holiday supports Mexican businesses, they are not against it, as long as people know what they are celebrating.

“I don’t want people to stop celebrating either, I just wish people who celebrate it (here in the US) knew what Cinco de Mayo is and when. is truly our Independence Day…and let them celebrate both! said Rios.

For Jorge Arceo and Ariana Quintana, owners and managers of El Nuevo Taconero on Cermak Road, this event has turned into a great celebration not only of Mexicans but of all people of Latin American descent in this country and it helps also Latin American companies.

“Cinco de Mayo was one of our busiest days with more customer flow with people coming to the festival, but since it stopped it’s affected us a lot,” Arceo said.

Cinco de Mayo is also a very busy day for Mi Tierra en La Villita, Ríos said, but since the start of the pandemic, restaurant attendance has suffered greatly. Now it’s starting to rise again, and he thought with the parade it would be back to pre-pandemic levels.

Ana Salas, a waitress at La Casa de Samuel on Cermak Road, said that since arriving in the United States more than three decades ago from Jalisco, Mexico, the Cinco de Mayo celebration had caught her eye.

“It seemed a little weird that they celebrated it so much because it’s not like that in Mexico, but I liked it a lot because the people (in Little Village) celebrate the culture, the music, the food and the people. traditions,” she said. “I wondered why (they celebrate it so hard) and to this day I still don’t know.”

Both Salas and Arceo think the festival and parade shouldn’t have been canceled.

“It shouldn’t have been canceled because people have been waiting for it for a long time and have expectations and then they get disappointed when they don’t,” Salas said.

“Also, Lollapalooza and all the other festivals in town are still going on. Why shouldn’t Cinco de Mayo be happening yet? said Arceo. “We’ve all been affected by the pandemic and a lot of people have lost loved ones, but as people say, ‘The show must go on.'”

Escobar, the organizer of the event, said that once all the festival workers have recovered and are back on their feet, they will begin organizing the Cinco de Mayo parade and festival next year. “First Dios that next year the pandemic will be more controlled and that we can do our events without worries,” he said.

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