'Mexican pride' on display at Cinco de Mayo
It might be another humdrum Saturday south of the border, but Portland planned a five-star celebration in honor of Cinco de Mayo.
The annual fiesta, now in its 34th year, was expected to bring at least 60,000 to 80,000 people to Tom McCall Waterfront Park in downtown Portland during the three-day festival that began on Friday.
And on Saturday, May 5, Juan Sandoval showed up for the big day draped in the green, white and red of the flag of Mexico.
"I want to show my Mexican pride," the 22-year-old Woodburn resident explained. "It's the first time I ever came over here. Might as well celebrate!"
Heaps of comida mexicana — what gringos call Mexican food — was available, including sopes, huarache, ceviche, empanadas, patacones, flautas, pambazos, tlayudas, quesadillas, sincronizadas, tostadas and stuffed churros.
Those looking for a different taste could order traditional American fare like funnel cake, elephant ears and deep-fried Oreos. There was also a tequila garden and plenty of liquid libations. Organizers said 60 vendors were serving food and hawking trinkets on site.
Many of the retailers made the trek from Jalisco, a large state on Mexico's west coast, to participate in the fair. Mariano Palacios, a well-known artist from the city of Tonalá, coordinates the merchant caravan and spent six weeks hand-painting the facades covering their booths.
"I love very much Portland. The city, the people — it's very nice," the 73-year-old said. Palacios has been a regular presence at Portland's Cinco de Mayo for the last 12 years and primarily sells old-fashioned toys.
Elsewhere, musical acts and dancers performed under a covered stage — hundreds watched bouts of boxers under the Morrison Bridge — while other dared to ride stomach-churning whirligigs like the "Vertigo," "Tornado" and "Super Orbiter."
In the ring, two 90-pound 13-year-olds duked it out to calls of "get him!" and "Super Saiyan!"
"I've got to get my head up more, because he kept getting me with a couple shots that caught me off guard," reflected Portlander Matthew Charlton after the match. He likes the sport because "it teaches self discipline and gives you a lot of self confidence and you get respect."
In the carnival section, Monica Garcia has just finished trouncing her boyfriend at a game when she was approached by a reporter.
"For me, it means a lot because I was born in Mexico," the Dundee resident commented. "It kind of brings in everybody."
"Seeing all the people, seeing everybody brought together," chimed in Angel Manzo of Hillsboro.Large companies also do their part, as each corporate sponsor is required to pay the fee for a local nonprofit. This year, Xfinity sponsored the Portland Mercado, Cricket Wireless paid for Portland Opportunities Industrialization Center and T-Mobile paid for two, including the Latino Network.
"I'm trying to bring in a lot of community," noted event director Neal Armstrong, whose company Axiom is producing the fest for the first time. His focus is on "making it culturally respectful, family friendly, (and) a focus on bilingual education."
Cinco de Mayo commemorates the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862, where out-matched Mexican forces beat back an invading French army three times larger. It's considered a relatively minor holiday in Mexico.
For the Portland Guadalajara Sister City Association, which organizes the whole shebang, it's a chance to highlight the connections between two towns dubbed The Rose City, both considered relatively rainy for their respective climates.
"We have a growing hispanic population. Why not have a party and invite everyone?" said Stephanie Lamberson, a past president of the organization.