A special Cinco de Mayo postage stamp, the first issued jointly by the United States and Mexico, received its Los Angeles debut Sunday during a celebration of the city's Latino heritage that drew more than 200,000 people.
On six stages stretching from the Civic Center to the Garment District, the crowd celebrated Latin music and song in a warmup to the Cinco de Mayo observance.
During a brief break from the steady beat that transformed usually quiet downtown streets into a vast plaza of humanity from midday to sundown, officials gathered to introduce the stamp bearing the name of two neighboring nations with a long history.
Alejandro Schiavon, Mexico's deputy consul general in Los Angeles, said Cinco de Mayo commemorates liberty for the Mexican people and offers an opportunity "to celebrate the progress and well-being" of the Latino community in the United States.
"Viva Cinco de Mayo!" Schiavon shouted as the crowd returned the chant.
Los Angeles Postmaster Alfred Iniguez said the stamp designed by Pasadena artist Robert Rodriguez and issued by both nations is an expression of pride in Latino heritage.
Part of a new series of stamps commemorating such holiday celebrations as Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, the Cinco de Mayo stamp was officially issued in San Antonio and Mexico City earlier this month. It commemorates the 135th anniversary of the victory of Mexican troops over the French on May 5, 1862.
The stamp, bearing two dancers in colorful costumes, was popular at Postal Service outlets from one end of Fiesta Broadway to the other.
The ninth annual event has become the nation's largest Cinco de Mayo celebration, although this year it comes well before the holiday.
For its corporate sponsors--and there are many--it affords the opportunity to reach the largest Latino community in the nation.
For families, it offers fun.
Just ask Jacin Scott, whose job was to help get kids to leave an inflatable trampoline-like tent and return to the arms of their parents. "It gets real difficult sometimes," Scott said. "They're having a lot of fun and are kind of a little excited."
After a round of bouncing, 2-year-old Antonio Rosalles of Los Angeles started crying when his turn was up. But there were lots of smiles on the faces of kids up and down Broadway on Sunday as they enjoyed the fun and food of the fiesta.
"This is the largest Cinco de Mayo party in the country," said Celeste Alleyne, spokeswoman for AT&T, the biggest sponsor. "It kicks off everything else. It's all about family, trying to keep the family together to celebrate a very rich history."
The crowd enjoyed warm weather and the rhythm of more than 40 bands from mariachis to salsa groups and everything in between. Recording star Chayanne wrapped up the celebration.
With alcohol no longer permitted to be sold at the many booths lining Broadway and a heavy presence of police and private security, it was a mellow event with no arrests reported, according to the Los Angeles Police Department.