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Additional Contacts: En Español: Jim Booker, (903) 670-2266; En Inglés: Larry Hodge, (903) 670-2255

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TPWD News Release — April 15, 2010

Tyler Dance Group to Headline Cinco de Mayo at Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center May 8

Event celebrates Mexican-American heritage and lifestyles of Texans

ATHENS, Texas — Athens will celebrate Cinco de Mayo at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center (TFFC) May 8 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 performances at 1:30 and 2:30 p.m. The accomplished dance group will be returning for its third performance at TFFC.

Other popular attractions will be dance performances by Athens elementary students and a salsa contest featuring hot sauces from local restaurants.

Smokey the Bear will make a special appearance and pose for photographs and give hugs. Kids are invited to have their pictures made with Smokey.

In keeping with the Texas-Mexican heritage theme of the event, Texas State Parks interpreters from the Rio Grande Valley will be offering bird walks and other outdoor activities as well as sharing information about state parks located near the border with Mexico.

Music will also be provided for public dancing in the Hart-Morris Conservation Center by DJ Will from 4:30 until 9:30 p.m.

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 after 1:00 p.m.

Food will be available for purchase, and persons or businesses interested in selling food or other items at the event should contact James Booker at (903) 670-2266.

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.

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. Exiled Mexican conservatives had invited Napoleon III of France to send the Maximilian and his wife, Carlota, to rule Mexico, in opposition to the reform movement led by Benito Juárez.

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.

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.

Cinco de Mayo at TFFC is sponsored by Red Hat Rentals, McDonald’s, Schneider Electric, ETMC — Athens, FutureMatrix, Inc., Holiday Inn Express Hotel and Suites — Athens, First State Bank, Virtual Communication Specialists and Citizens National Bank.