As a group of third- and fourth-graders finished their rendition of the Oakridge Boys' "Elvira" for the crowd celebrating Cinco de Mayo at Northridge's Napa Street Elementary School on Friday, they were rewarded with a series of whoops rivaling any heard at a weekend mariachi concert on Olvera Street.
" Ahahahaii !" one excited parent yelled over a sea of clapping hands to his dancing son. " Baile, mijito, baile "--dance, my son, dance--he said.
The theme of the day was diversity. While some students sashayed to country-Western classics or grooved to hip-hop routines, others twirled to more traditional \o7 folklorico \f7 compositions.
More than 100 mostly Latino parents applauded in surprised delight to each switch in tone.
"We wanted to show all sides of the holiday," said Napa Street Principal Allan Sussman. "The children studied Cinco de Mayo all week long to find out what it really means. They also used Cinco de Mayo to delve into other cultural holidays. In that way, they could gain respect for the lives of others. It also brings a sense of unity to the school, which is what the holiday is all about."
Other organizations around the San Fernando Valley who celebrated Cinco de Mayo this week agreed with Sussman's assessment of the Mexican holiday. Using Cinco de Mayo as a springboard, groups celebrated the concept of unity.
For instance, officers at the Los Angeles Police Department's Devonshire Division held their annual Cinco de Mayo fiesta on Thursday with the hopes of getting to know the community.
The celebration is one of only a few times police officers can meet community members in a festive setting, said Community Relations Officer Ruben Lopez. "It gives officers a chance to form social bonds with the community," he said.
In efforts to raise funds for student tuition, Highland Hall School, a private school in Northridge, celebrated the holiday by exhibiting the works of Mexican artist Sergio Ladron de Guevera, who now lives in the Valley.
Ladron de Guevera set out recently to create testaments to the Mexican lifestyle, in a series of murals and monotypes depicting his boyhood experiences. "The Mexican experience is both surreal and grave," he said. "My works endeavor to reveal that and to explore the Mexican conscience. In that way, we can understand each other."
Meanwhile, the International Community Service Day Foundation, or ICSD, a nonprofit organization coordinating community improvement projects, held a celebration at Pacoima's Montague Street Elementary School in efforts to raise money to renovate the school.
"We're working to get people in the community to gather together and become involved in their surroundings," said ICSD spokesman Phil Solomon. "If they do, some really positive things can happen."