TPWD News Release — April 7, 2009
ATHENS, Texas—Athens will celebrate Cinco de Mayo at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center May 2 with food, music and dancing in addition to the normal TFFC activities such as fishing, tram rides and dive show presentations.
Featured entertainment will be Tyler Ballet Folklorico, directed by Cecilia Salgado, with two performances.
Music will also be provided for public dancing in the Hart-Morris Conservation Center.
Event hours will be from 1:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. Saturday. Reduced admissions prices of $2.50 for adults and $1 for students ages 12 to 18 will be in effect after 1:00 p.m. Children under 12 will be admitted free.
Persons interested in selling food or other items at the event should contact James Booker at (903) 670-2266. A Miss Cinco de Mayo pageant is planned, and anyone wishing to participate should contact Booker.
Cinco de Mayo is one of two Mexican national holidays celebrated throughout Texas. According to The Handbook of Texas, these celebrations originated in Mexico in the nineteenth century. Cinco de Mayo (May 5) commemorates Gen. Ignacio Zaragoza’s victory on May 5, 1862, over the French expeditionary forces at Puebla, Mexico. The second holiday, Diez y Seis de Septiembre (September 16), commemorates Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla’s grito de Dolores ("cry of Dolores") on September 16, 1810, at the village of Dolores, near Guanajuato. Diez y Seis is Mexico’s national Independence Day.
At the time of the Texas Revolution of 1836, which ended Mexican Texas, Hispanic peoples in Texas possessed a unique cultural heritage, enriched by a combination of Spanish and Indian customs. This biculturation enabled Mexican Americans to adapt and join the mainstream Anglo-American culture while maintaining in group relationships and family structures their valued ethnic traditions. Mexican Americans began celebrating fiestas patrias such as Cinco de Mayo to reinforce their cultural links with each other and with Mexico.
The first fiestas patrias were held in Texas in the early 1820s. They included festivities that involved special music, songs, dances, native cuisine, costumes, and homage to folk heroes. In these celebrations Tejanos displayed and preserved their ethnicity.
The Cinco de Mayo festival was second in importance only to Diez y Seis. This event recalled the Mexican defeat of French forces in Mexico in 1862. Disgruntled, exiled Mexican conservatives had invited Napoleon III of France to send the Hapsburg Maximilian and his wife, Carlota, to rule Mexico, in opposition to the reform movement led by Benito Juárez. Cinco de Mayo also celebrated the cultural ties that the raza (the "race" or "clan," i.e., Mexican Americans) shared with each other and with Mexico.
Cinco de Mayo has a special relationship to Texas in that the leader of the Mexican army that defeated the French troops at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862, was a native Texan, Ignacio Zaragoza, who was born in Goliad.
Many Texas cities developed a fiestas patrias tradition. In Houston the celebrations began in the 1920s, when the Hispanic population grew large enough to require a Mexican consulate.
Although primarily held to maintain Mexican-American cultural life and customs, fiestas patrias occasionally rendered a political service. In 1973 Mexican-American leaders clashed with the Mexican consul in Houston, declaring that the true function of their fiestas patrias was to promote their own unique Mexican-American heritage and lifestyle, and not that of Mexico. It is in that spirit that the Cinco de Mayo celebration at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center is held.
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