Oscar de la Torre will tell you that Cinco de Mayo has been commercialized and that most people incorrectly believe that it is Mexico’s independence day.
“What people don’t know is that Mexican communities across the U.S. celebrate this day more than Mexicans do in Mexico,” said de la Torre, the founder of the Pico Youth & Family Center (PYFC).
“By Mexicans defeating the invading French, we defeated France’s imperialist intentions that included the expansion of slavery. Mexico’s defeat of the French supported the defeat of slavery in the Americas. Our celebration is deeper than music, dance and festivities. It is a reminder that many people have made sacrifices for the improved social conditions we enjoy today and that we must stay united to challenge those who intend to chip away at the freedom and liberty we currently have.”
To celebrate the truth behind the holiday, PYFC, along with various local businesses, non-profits, churches, public schools, ballet folklórico dance troupes, classic car clubs, musicians and community members will host the Venice Cinco de Mayo Parade/Festival; an event that hasn’t been held in 32 years.
This year’s event is scheduled for Saturday, April 30 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The parade will begin at 10 a.m. on the corner of California Avenue and Lincoln Boulevard in Venice.
“PYFC is honored to work collaboratively with residents of Venice and Santa Monica to bring back a historic cultural event to Venice,” said Laura Ceballos, PYFC board member and event chair, in a press release. “Growing up in Venice I witnessed the Cinco de Mayo parade and festival of the past and I am excited to be a part of a team of people bringing this wonderful event back to our City.”
de la Torre said that holding the historic event was so important because of the gentrification that he believes is threatening the diversity of local communities. “Venice’s Oakwood Neighborhood and Santa Monica’s Pico Neighborhood are home to historic neighborhoods of Latino and African American residents. It is demoralizing for us to see families being displaced. Bringing the Venice Cinco de Mayo Parade/Festival back is a positive way for us to celebrate the presence of indigenous Mexican, Mexican American and Latino culture. To do this in a festive and public forum is our way of saying, ‘we have always been a part of this community in West Los Angeles and we plan to be here in the future.’”
The parade will lead into a festival (held at the Penmar Recreation Park, 1341 Lake Street, Venice) featuring food vendors, a guacamole contest, information booths, and live music and dance performances. L.A. City Councilman Mike Bonin and Santa Monica Mayor Tony Vazquez will join other elected officials in celebrating the return of the historic event to Venice. The parade grand marshal, UCLA professor Dr. David Hayes-Bautista, who recently completed a book on the history of Cinco de Mayo celebrations in the USA, will provide an educational overview of the events historic significance.
Event organizers have worked for several months to put together what they hope will be a culturally significant event, rather than the way Cinco de Mayo is usually celebrated.
“We wanted to distinguish our event from the commercialized version of Cinco de Mayo ads and promotions that we are about to see pop up everywhere,” de la Torre said. “We wanted to focus on the people and culture. We also want to have a family-friendly event. For this reason we wanted to host the event before the actual 5th of May.”
de la Torre stated that the main purpose for the event is to bring the community together.
“The fact that residents of Venice and Santa Monica are working together to bring this event back is already a victory for us. PYFC’s motto is: peace, unity and social justice. So we are living up to our motto by working beyond artificial borders to celebrate our shared culture.”