Hayward Gets Festive for Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo festivities attract roughly 500 people
to the event.

Face painting, mariachi bands and piñatas. Children dancing and Cuco el Crocodiles singing in Spanish marked Hayward’s Cinco de Mayo celebration.

Many of the attendees were Spanish speakers and many spoke only English, but that did not stop them from enjoying the festivities together. The language of culture and dance proved to be universal.

“The culture, the dances, the food, its Cinco de Mayo,” said Raul Nava, a Union City resident. “It’s very, very festive. Especially coming here and seeing all the music and dancing and horses and everything. It’s a pleasure.”

Kindergartners from Burbank Elementary School and students from the Bridges Academy at Melrose kicked off the celebration with traditional Mexican folk music, followed by performances by children from the Ballet Folklorico Costa de Oro, dressed in brilliant shades of yellow and green. They were joined by other local dance groups celebrating Mexican history and culture.

At its height there were close to 500 people at the event. People sat around the central stage near City Hall, watching children perform and eating tamales and nachos. A promenade of 30 dancing Charro horses pranced through the street to the delight of the audience. It was chance event for members of the community to hang out, relax and revel in the celebration of their culture.

Armando Garcia of Cesar Chavez Middle School and Andrea Rosales of Union City are both children of Mexican immigrants and were born in the Bay Area. They performed with the Mariachi Juvenil de Hayward.

Garcia dressed in the intricately designed black and white Charro suit typical of Mariachi bands, tuning his violin as he waited for the rest of the group to gather for their performance.

“We usually [come out for Cinco de Mayo] every year. It’s a type of celebration just to have fun, pretty much,” Garcia said.

Coming from a Mexican household, Garcia and Rosales said their parents speak Spanish at home and celebrate Mexican holidays, such as the Day of the Dead, the Day of the Kids and the Day of the Lady Guadalupe.

While honoring their cultural roots, both speak fluent English and excel in school. “We actually kind of help people,” Rosales giggled.

Veronica Oy brought her children to the festival to have fun. She thought it was beautiful how the festival represented all the different parts of Mexico.

“I’m glad that I brought along my daughters because they’ll learn that this is a part of us, that we’re from Mexico,” Oy said in Spanish.

The event was organized by Councilmember Francisco Zermeno, who said it took him at least six months to organize the event.

Zermeno also said that he is happy the event appealed to children, and that it was relatively small, because that made it more manageable, safer, and more inviting for people with families.

“Once in a while a police officer will drop by, just to say ‘Francisco, how’s it going?’ and you look around and it’s just family. And that’s really just what it’s about,” Zermeno said.

He said the city of Hayward has been putting on Cinco de Mayo events for almost ten years now. The event doesn’t bring in any revenue to him or the city, he said, but the reward is in the satisfaction he gets from strengthening Hayward and having a beer with old friends.

Catherine Valdez of the National Hispanic Organization of Real Estate Associates sat alongside the food booths and the clothing boutiques, selling a different kind of product. NHORA just recently opened a branch in Hayward and works to help Latino families that don’t understand English well avoid taking predatory loans, and put them on the path to home ownership.

“It’s a language barrier, and it’s a cultural issue,” Valdez said. “Culturally, the way we do things here in America is very different, and they need to get acclimated to the way things are done here in America. And that’s a process.”

In Mexico, if you have the cash you can purchase a home with no strings attached, Valdez said. But in America anyone can be a homeowner, no matter what class they come from, and the system of loans can be confusing to immigrants who don’t understand how they work, putting them at risk of exploitation by predatory lenders.

Cinco de Mayo celebrates the Mexican victory at the Battle of Puebla under President Benito Juarez, over the much more powerful and technologically advanced French army occupying Mexico after the Mexican-American War.

For the Latino community, Zermeno said, “Cinco de Mayo is the poor, and the unprepared, really going out there and taking on the best army at that time and really beating them up.” It commemorates the unity and strong sense of family of the Mexican people.