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South County's Cinco de Mayo Festival--A Cultural Fiasco

May 19, 1991

Being a new South Orange County resident, I eagerly anticipated my first cultural experience here with San Juan Capistrano's Cinco de Mayo festival. What I experienced was a cultural travesty.

Upon arriving, I found a five-piece, all-Anglo band, playing mostly country music; five booths that consisted of a free spinal exam booth, a local seafood restaurant, a booth selling Indian artifacts, a T-shirt booth (which sold swallow shirts), and a food booth. And, of course, there was the culturally significant jail, which was manned by two playfully "armed" sheriffs.

What did this have to do with Cinco de Mayo? Absolutely nothing. There were no Latino participants in this fiasco. There was no mention of the significance Cinco de Mayo has to Latinos. No Mexican music. No cultural dances. Basically a cultural disaster.

I remember reading an article in The Times a couple of months ago decrying the state of Hispanic gangs in South Orange County, most notably San Juan Capistrano. But when one of the most important Hispanic holidays is treated with absolute apathy and disrespect, it is little wonder that the Latino community feels alienated. It is time for South Orange County to recognize our burgeoning community with respect.

STEVE GONZALES, Mission Viejo

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