Willimantic celebrates Cinco de Mayo
By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Willimantic - posted Tue., May. 7, 2013
According to organizer Pedro Perea, this is the third year that Willimantic has hosted a Cinco de Mayo celebration on the Jillson Square Green. The Willimantic celebration included a parade that began at Memorial Park and ended at Jillson Square. On the green there were attractions for the children, including inflatables supplied by Perea’s company, Chamaco de la Rosa, LLC. A number of local Latino restaurants provided food, and there were vendors offering a variety of goods. The main event for the afternoon was dancing.
Amid occasional firecrackers and pyrotechnic fountains, festival-goers, dressed in both traditional costumes and modern-day clothing, danced to music provided by La Cautivadora Banda San Miguelito. Other organizers for the event included: Alfonso Viveros, Rodrigo Rodriguez, Primitivo Viveros, Abimael Torillo and Felipe Perez.
Contrary to popular belief, Cinco de Mayo is not a holiday celebrating Mexico’s independence. The Mexican war for independence against Spain began on Sept. 16, 1810, and Sept. 16 marks the day for its commemoration, the most important patriotic holiday in Mexico. The Mexican army's unlikely victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla didn’t take place until more than 50 years later, on May 5, 1862.
The Mexican treasury had been decimated by the Mexican-American War of 1846-48, the Mexican Civil War of 1858, and the 1860 Reform Wars. The French, seeking to take advantage of the country’s weakness, stormed Veracruz and proceeded toward Mexico City. Against all odds, an army of 4,500 poorly-equipped Mexican soldiers managed to decisively crush the 8,000-man-strong French army near Puebla.
As described by The History Channel, “Although not a major strategic win in the overall war against the French, Zaragoza's success at Puebla represented a great symbolic victory for the Mexican government and bolstered the resistance movement." The David and Goliath-type Mexican victory came to be regarded as symbolic of the cause for freedom and democracy. According to the History Channel, Cinco de Mayo is not a major holiday in Mexico, but arose in the United States during the American Civil War and has “evolved into a celebration of Mexican culture and heritage… [including] parades, mariachi music performances and street festivals in cities and towns across Mexico and the United States.”