In Fillmore and Oxnard, two cities that are home to thousands of first-, second- and third-generation Mexican-Americans, Cinco de Mayo celebrations today and this weekend will be more than margaritas and tacos.
While the day's festivities will include ethnic food and entertainment, in Fillmore the spotlight will center on achievements of the town's high-school-age Latinos.
"In order to be successful, we don't have to kiss goodby our cultural heritage," said Manuela Ryce, a Fillmore High School guidance counselor. "We're communicating the fact that we have high expectations of our young people."
Cinco de Mayo festivals commemorate the May 5, 1862, Battle of Puebla, when 2,000 Mexican soldiers held off 6,000 French troops in a valiant but futile attempt to prevent French domination of the country. The holiday symbolizes the determination and spirit of the Mexican people.
Popular in U.S.
It is celebrated in Mexico, but seems to have gained more popularity with Mexican-Americans and Mexicans living in the United States, said a Cinco de Mayo festival organizer in Oxnard.
Fillmore's festivities begin at noon today with a program of Mexican song and dance by San Cayetario Elementary School students.
At 5:30 p.m., a dinner of rice, beans and birria , stewed goat meat cooked in underground ovens overnight, will be served amid strolling mariachis at the Fillmore-Piru Veterans Memorial Building.
The night's main event, a student-organized and -performed dance, will culminate with the naming of a Cinco de Mayo king and queen drawn from the Fillmore High School student body.
In Oxnard this weekend, 17 entertainment acts will perform in Plaza Park at a free two-day Cinco de Mayo festival, staged this year for the first time by the Mexican-American Chamber of Commerce.
10,000 Daily Visitors
By not charging admission, organizers hope to attract 10,000 visitors each day, said Richard Sanchez, chamber treasurer.
"It's not the Fourth of July," Sanchez said. "I would compare it more to St. Patrick's Day. It's an ethnic celebration. Here, it symbolizes the fact that we are a country of strong cultures."
An Oxnard Spanish-language radio station, KOXR-AM, and a local promoter lined up a number of contemporary dance and pop musicians from Mexico and Los Angeles for the event, Sanchez said.
On Saturday, five bands will play two-hour sets from 10 a.m. until 9 p.m.
Twelve acts are scheduled Sunday, beginning at 10 a.m. Highlighting the day will be Mariachi Nuevo, Pedro Landa and Guadalajara Rancheros performing mariachi music at 3:30 p.m. Music and dancing will last until 9 p.m.