Cinco de Mayo brings two cultures to one special fiesta

The language barrier proved to be no problem for revelers at St. Mark's Episcopal Church's first Cinco de Mayo celebration to kick off its new outreach program May 5.

The Reverend Kyle Bennett, along with other church members, invited the church's Mexican neighbors to a party with good music, authentic food and lots of translators.

"(We're) going to see how fun it's going to be when we won't be able to speak to (each other)," he said before the party.

The party was to hopefully kick off a new ministry program to help give the Mexican community on the island a leg up by eventually offering ESL classes, tutoring and back-to-school programs.

"I envision a new backdoor opening up to help people get through all the red tape to become citizens," Bennett said.

"The idea is to bring our information and what we know and share that information with folks in the neighborhood."

Churchgoer Cheryl Mueller, who also helped organize the event, anticipates that the after-school program will help the community's children start their studies at the same level as other students.

"We just want them to go into school on a more even basis," she said. "We don't want to duplicate anything in the community, we just want to fill a void."

To overcome the language barrier, several translators were put to good use, along with Spanish-English cheat sheets.

While adults mingled and tried to piece together conversations, kids were kept busy with a bounce house, face painting and clowns.

Children at the Cinco de Mayo party, like Vanessa Gil, 10, enjoyed activities like face painting, bounce houses and piñatas.

Photo by Lindsey Kaiser, Marco Eagle

Children at the Cinco de Mayo party, like Vanessa Gil, 10, enjoyed activities like face painting, bounce houses and piñatas.

The idea for the program came in December when, upon learning that many children in that area would not be having a good Christmas, the church sent over Santa Claus to distribute toys.

Church organizers had help from a community liaison, Hugo Sanchez, and his wife in spreading the word that there was a fiesta May 5.

Everyone was very receptive to coming, he said, and they provided all the authentic Mexican food like tamales, nopales, tostadas, mole poblano and canasta.

Cinco de Mayo, or "Fifth of May," is the celebration of Mexico's defeat over the French army at the Battle of Puebla in 1861, not the Mexican Independence Day as is commonly believed. Known as the French Intervention, Napoleon III installed Archduke Maximilian of Austria as ruler when France invaded Mexico to collect debts. Tension mounted between the French and the newly elected, democratic Mexican government until it culminated in a battle in the city of Puebla, where a force of ill-equipped peasants and indigenous people defeated French troops.

Cinco de Mayo is not a widely celebrated holiday in Mexico outside of the city of Puebla, but it is celebrated with enthusiasm in the United States, especially in cities along the Mexican-American border.

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