The biggest party to celebrate the 1862 Battle of Puebla takes place at Waterfront Park, May 3-5; it includes a naturalization ceremony

COURTESY: PGSCA - Music is a big part of Cinco de Mayo Fiesta.Everything about the Cinco de Mayo Fiesta at Gov. Tom McCall Waterfront Park, May 3-5, is authentically Mexican and worth visiting to experience the culture.

Then again, in Mexico they don't really celebrate Cinco de Mayo. It's more of a day for Americans to party, eat great food and partake in all things south of the border, and to celebrate our city's relationship with its Mexican kin through the Portland Guadalajara Sister City Association.

"We realize it's not really a big thing in Mexico," says Barbara Gamez, PGSCA board member, who has many duties during Cinco de Mayo season, and one of them is to pick up the mariachi band from the airport.

Officially, the date May 5 signifies when, in 1862, the Mexican army defeated the French at the Battle of Puebla.

Sounds like a good excuse to drink Corona and eat tacos!

Actually, the 35th annual festival at Waterfront Festival is the largest multicultural festival in the state.

COURTESY: PGSCA - The Cinco de Mayo Fiesta, May 3-5, at Waterfront Park, will feature plenty of dancers.There'll be the internationally acclaimed Mariachi Ciudad de Guadalajara and Oregon's Ballet Folklorico Mexico en La Piel, the Guadalajara Artisan Village and plenty of flavors — food, snacks, desserts — of Jalisco and other regions of Mexico.

The fiesta will include an expanded Plaza de Nino, where families and kids can enjoy cultural crafts, games, activities and face painting.

Oregon's International Reptile Rescue exhibit provides hands-on education about critters, focusing on critters from Mexico — iguanas, tortoises, tarantulas and a gila monster.

There'll also be a Family Fun Carnival, musicians, Rip City Boxing, a Premier Tequila Tasting Experience, Loteria/Bingo Game Booth and, maybe the most significant happening, a naturalization ceremony, in an era of so much talk about legal and illegal immigration. Folks are getting their citizenship, and it's often quite an emotional event.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Portland Field Office will conduct the naturalization ceremony for 50 local people. Sen. Ron Wyden will congratulate the new citizens and Marcelo Diversi, an assistant professor of human development at Washington State University of Vancouver, will give the keynote speech. It takes place at 1 p.m. Friday, May 3, at Waterfront Park.

"It gives people the opportunity to come down and be a part of who we are," Gamez says. "It's really a neat event."

The Cinco de Mayo Fiesta is open from 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday-Sunday, March 3-5.

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