Celebrating Cinco de Mayo

FONDA – As she began reading to a group of children about Cinco de Mayo, librarian Linda Mercer explained to them why the celebration was being held on Sunday, the fourth, instead of today, the fifth.

“If we had it tomorrow,” she said, “Nobody would come, everyone would be at work.”

The book helped set the stage for the next event, the making of empanadas – a traditional Mexican pastry.

Jesse Cole, 2, of Fonda, got a little help with making the square pastry dough round from his mom, Cristina Ites. He opted for the apple filling before the tasty treats were placed into the oven.

It was Ites first time celebrating Cinco de Mayo.

“The kids have a baby sitter from Mexico,” she said, “It seemed very interesting.”

Next, they made flowers out of sheets of paper. Each became something to wave a few minutes later when Mercer led them down the street in a short parade to the main celebration.

Celenia Gonzalez, of Fonda, organized the event.

Gonzalez said her goal was to bring people together and share a Mexican tradition with the community including many residents of Mexican ancestry who may not have experienced the holiday before.

She said it’s for everybody to share.

“We’re all equal, we’re all the same,” she said.

Gonzalez said that one common misconception is that Cinco de Mayo is a Mexican Independence Day. Instead, the holiday celebrates the victory of a Mexican force of 4,000 men in a battle with 6,500 French troops at the Battle of Puebla. The battle took place on May 5, 1862.

The day is traditionally celebrated with parades, mariachi bands, street dances, decorations and colorful traditional clothing.

The children also get to celebrate with another classic Mexican tradition – beating a pinata to pieces and collecting the candy that comes flying out.

Kassandra Gonzalez, 10, of Fonda, did the first one in.

“I use my instincts,” she said, “I hit it wherever I can.”

While she enjoyed working off a few frustrations and got out of the way quickly as a mass of younger children scrambled to pick up the fallen candy – the pinata wasn’t her favorite.

“I like the bouncy thing,” she said.

Salvador Clemente, 14, of Fonda, was helping with some of the decorations. He got the job of putting one of paper flowers onto a light pole.

He likes being able to share his cultural heritage.

“It’s cool to show people something different,” Clemente said.

He is also happy that he can enjoy the holiday in Iowa – the California native missed it.

“We can keep the tradition going,” Clemente said.

He likes the pinata, too.

“It’s fun hitting something and making candy come out,” he said.