PAST ORGANIZERS OF SALINAS CINCO DE MAYO FESTIVALS REFLECT ON HOLIDAYʼS MEANING
Cinco de Mayo- Past and Present
By: Joanna Renteria
The first Cinco de Mayo celebration in Salinas was 15 minutes long.
The second was a half-hour. By the fourth year, the local fiesta commemorating a famous battle in Mexican history snowballed from a lunchtime activity at Alisal High School to festivities at three high schools. Eventually, it would evolve into a citywide event with a parade, music, dancing, queens, speeches and a classic car show attracting revelers from Northern and Southern California.
A Cinco de Mayo event set for Saturday at the Salinas Sports Complex is hoping to regain some of the spark and spice of Cincos past. More on that later.
“Salinas was a pioneer” in sponsoring citywide Cinco festivities, said Bubba G. Scotch, today a professional DJ and, back in the day, one of the original members of the community committee that put together Salinas’s Cinco celebrations.
Each year, the Battle of Puebla in 1862 is remembered as a time when a rag-tag assembly of Mexican villagers and farmers fought Napolean III’s invading French army and won. Heavily outnumbered, the Mexicans rallied to push the French off the continent.
The victory was embraced by Chicano activists during the social movement of the 1960s as an inspirational moment of the underdog enduring against a much bigger foe.
The French later returned to recapture Mexico, but that’s another story.
On Saturday, Cinco de Mayo celebrations across the nation will also symbolize the victories, achievements and contributions by Chicanos and other Latinos to the American experience. That was also the intent of the early celebrations, said Lupe Covarrubias, another Cinco organizer of the past and now an outreach specialist at the Monterey County Department of Health Nutrition Services.
“We were kids,” back then, she said. “There were so many questions and obstacles but we stuck to our guns. We knew we had to have it. People would mention Cinco de Mayo, red white and green but we were like, ‘Do you even know what Cinco de Mayo is?’ We had to teach people about it. We were born here (U.S.) and we were proud of that but we were also proud of our heritage andwe wanted people to know that.”
Cinco de Mayo symbolizes what we have gone through as Chicanos or Latinos … as parents trying to overcome, trying to do better, trying to be part of this country,” said Tony Andrada, another original organizer and now a captain in the Salinas Fire Department.
“We haven’t seen a Cinco de Mayo festival like ours since we organized them back in the 80s,” Andrada said.
Enter Saturday’s event. Albeit, it is not a citywide event but the entire city is invited to enjoy a day of Mexican culture and song – and motorcycle racing.
LTR Promotions is holding what it calls its “First Annual Cinco de Mayo Festival.” It is sponsoring a motorcycle race at the Sports Complex on May 5. The cultural connection may be coincidental but it can’t be denied.
“We will have ballet folkloric, Aztec dancers, mariachi, food and drinks. But on the other hand we broke a lot of the tradition and added to the tradition, to make it something for everyone. Hopefully, it may make a difference in the way Cinco de Mayo is celebrated, in a way to come together” said Tanya Moore, event coordinator.
The motorcycle race features the top three flat-track motorcycle racers in the nation, Moore said.
And custom car mogul Cole Foster, a reality television star and owner of Salinas Boy Customs, is organizing the car show.
“Everyone likes music and cars … The races are different but it’s an extreme sport, it will be exciting. This event seems like a homerun to me,” Foster said last week.
The musical lineup features performances by Latino rock singer Blanca Sandoval, Banda Furia, local classic rock band the Chicano All-Stars, and Richard Bean, former member of Malo and lead vocalist on that band’s signature song, “Suavecito.”
Bean will be performing with Sapo, another 1970s Latino rock band. “Suavecito is an international hit. I’m excited to perform this song,” said Bean.
“(Sapo) is made up of different cultures. All of that reflects in our music. Although we haven’t been down (to Salinas) in a while, a lot of people know about us,” he
In keeping with a Cinco de Mayo tradition in Salinas, portions of the eventʼs proceeds are meant for the good of the community.
Some of the proceeds will go to the Second Chance Foundation, an organization devoted to keeping kids out of gangs and helping those in one to get out.
Though Saturday’s event has a full lineup of culture and an extreme sport, it has a lot to live up to, according to Cinco organizers of years past.
“They are good memories, the feelings come back to me. We would love to see that type of energy in Salinas again,” Andrada said.