By Lynn Burton
Sopris Sun Staff Writer
Look for two new twists at Festival las Americas in Sopris Park: the annual fund-raiser for Club Rotario will be held on May 5 rather than in late August, and admission will be free.
“May 5 is a popular date, so we thought we’d take advantage of that,” organizer Jen Quevedo told The Sopris Sun. She said that in late summer, fewer vendors are available than in early May and Sunday isn’t a good day for them.
Proceeds from the event go toward scholarships provided through the Colorado Mountain College Foundation. In the past, Club Rotario has charged admission in order to help raise money for scholarship but this year 1st Bank stepped up as a sponsor to cover the cover charge.
This year’s action includes a bounce castle, dunk tank, beer garden, food and several bands, and will also give out the annual Jackie Morales awards for community service. The late Jackie Morales was a community activist who started Festival Las Americas more than a decade ago.
When asked if the festival will continue to be held in early May, Quevedo said “we’ll see how it turns out (this year).”
As for Cinco de Mayo, the celebration is not to be confused with Mexican Independence Day (from Spain), which occurs on Sept. 16. May 5 is the anniversary of the Mexican victory over France at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862, and is more popular in the United States than south of the border.
According to a paper published by the UCLA Center for the Study of Latino Health and Culture, the American celebration of the day started in California gold towns and camps in the 1860s. Time magazine reported that Cinco de Mayo was celebrated with the rise of the Chicano movement in the 1940s. The celebration spread to other states in the 1950s and 1960s, but did not gain widespread popularity until the 1980s when U.S. companies began to promote it for commercial gain.
On June 7, 2005, the United States Congress issued a resolution calling on the President to issue a proclamation to observe the day. Today, some school districts hold special events to educate students about the day’s historical significance and celebrate Mexican culture.
Events tied to Cinco de Mayo also occur outside Mexico and the United States, including cities in Canada, the Cayman Islands and other locations in the Caribbean, Australia, England, South Africa, Nigeria and Japan.
One historical note about the Battle of Puebla: some historians say that had the Mexico not defeated France, France might have gone to the aid of the Confederacy in the U.S. Civil War and could have affected its outcome.
What: Festival las Americas;
When: Noon to 8 p.m. on May 5;
Where: Sopris Park;
How much: Admission is free.