Fiesta! Cinco de Mayo in Minneapolis and St. Paul

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The sound of maracas and mariachi music will fill the air in the coming weeks when community members take to the streets for Cinco de Mayo block parties in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Twin Cities organizations and businesses are once again are hosting celebrations this year, despite funding woes and operation issues. 


Many think Cinco de Mayo, or the 5th of May, commemorates Mexico’s independence, but it is the official date of the defeat of French forces in 1862 in the town of Puebla.   The holiday is celebrated regionally in Mexico, and more broadly in the United States as a celebration of all Americans of Mexican ancestry. 


St. Paul Cinco de Mayo


The Riverview Economic Development Association (REDA) – the non-profit that produces St. Paul’s Cinco de Mayo celebration – announced in April that it would not accept $9,000 in funding from the tobacco industry for the two-day Cinco de Mayo fiesta.  If REDA had accepted the funds, representatives from the tobacco industry would have been able to distribute tobacco promotional coupons at the event. Local groups such as the Jóvenes de Salud – an after school youth program – and others did not want this to be a part of the festivities.


Carmen Robles, Director of Latino Outreach for Jóvenes de Salud – a program of the Association for Non-Smokers Minnesota – said the kids in her program were “inspiring” because they wanted to go to REDA and ask them not to take the funding.


“They’re (the youth) heroes,” she said.  “The kids are beginning to get involved, getting interested (in health).”


REDA marketing manager, Brian Gioielli, said prior to meeting with Jóvenes de Salud, REDA was considering different sponsorship options because finding funding was becoming increasingly difficult. 


“Before Jóvenes came to us we were in an exploratory mode,” he said.  “We never have taken tobacco dollars in the past, not since I’ve been here … We were just trying to weigh the options at that point.”


Gioielli said REDA was fortunate to be able to work with an organization like Jóvenes de Salud.


“It’s pretty powerful that a group of high school students would come in and talk to us about something like this (tobacco free environment),” he said.


Gioielli oversees all aspects of the Cinco de Mayo Fiesta and said now the celebration will promote safety and health in the community.


Festivities will take place on Cesar Chavez Street in St. Paul on May 7 from 4-9 p.m. and May 8 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.


(For more information about the REDA Cinco de Mayo celebration, visit their website.)


Gioielli said Friday’s events are just the start of the celebration, but the “big draw” is the low rider car show in the afternoon and the hydraulic show later in the evening.


Saturday is when the big party starts, according to Gioielli.  There will be a parade, a community wellness village, a children’s area, five stages for entertainment, a people’s choice salsa tasting contest, a jalapeño eating contest, a history area, and many more attractions.


For 28 years, REDA has put on this celebration and, according to Gioielli, about 100,000 people attend the event every year.


“That (the attendance) makes it the largest Hispanic, Latino event in Minnesota and one of the ten largest Cinco celebrations in the country,” he said.


Minneapolis Cinco de Mayo


El Nuevo Rodeo and Sabri Properties are hosting two events in Minneapolis, both of which are free to anyone who wishes to join in the festivities.


El Nuevo Rodeo restaurant and nightclub is hosting its second annual fiesta on Sunday, May 2 will be located on their block of 27th and East Lake Street.  El Nuevo Rodeo shares the hosting duties with La Mera Buena 107.5 FM and La Invasora 1400 AM, and the event is also sponsored by Línea Latina de Accidentes. 


The event comes after the nightclub nearly lost its liquor license when the city moved for revocation due to zoning issues and because some believed the clubs presence had increased crime in the area.  With that battle over, Cinco de Mayo is still on at El Nuevo Rodeo.


Club owner Maya Santamaria said she has a background in non-profit work and although she now runs a for-profit business, she feels this celebration is one way to give back to the community.


“We give back,” she said.  “We do it because we’re there and we feel like we should.”


Salsa dancing lessons and a low rider car show will happen throughout the afternoon and although the block party time is from 12-8 p.m., the party will continue inside Rodeo’s nightclub until the wee hours of the morning.


Food and drink will also be in abundance from local businesses and various vendors, according to Gricel Bermúdez. 


“El Burrito Mercado, Don Chilo Restaurant, also Association of Colombian in Minnesota – a non-profit organization – and more,” she said.


Two stages, one outside and one inside the club, will hold live entertainment all day from bands such as, headliners Huichol Musical and La Autoridad de La Sierra, both of which are Latin Grammy Award winners.


“It is a celebration of the Mexican community, its music, culture and food, and it is for everyone to enjoy,” Santamaria said.  “It’s an opportunity for them (all people) to see what El Nuevo Rodeo presents in a day-time, outdoors, family friendly atmosphere.”


(For a more detailed schedule of events, visit El Nuevo Rodeo’s website.)


Sabri Properties says they have organized Cinco de Mayo celebrations since 1997 and according to the company’s website, its involvement with these community events, “brings pride and a spirit of involvement” to the neighborhoods.


 “We have pony rides and a playground for kids,” said Esra Erkol – administrative assistant at Sabri Properties.  “It’s basically a family day … (People) have some food and watch some bands, and enjoy themselves.”


The fiesta is along East Lake Street, in between Second Avenue and Portland Avenue, on May 9 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.  According to Erkol, there will be a march in the morning, food, drink, activities for children and traditional dancers and music to can be enjoyed throughout the day.