Although Cinco de Mayo commemorates the Mexican army’s victory over the French at the Battle of Puebla in 1862, the holiday basically was born in California – twice, in fact. While Mexican immigrant workers are said to have started Cinco de Mayo to celebrate Mexico’s surprising military triumph, the holiday then gained more prominence around 100 years later during the Chicano civil rights movement, which was particularly strong in California.
Recognizing the holiday’s history here, La Plaza de Cultura y Artes is calling its Cinco de Mayo celebration “An American Tradition.” This free family event, from noon-3 p.m., explores California’s 19th century history while presenting live performances, art workshops and a teatro presentation featuring Ballet Folklorico Flor de Mayo and Conjunto Tenocelomeh.
A historically significant location for celebrating Cinco de Mayo is Olvera Street (elpueblo.lacity.org). The site where L.A. was founded in 1781 will host a free weekend-plaza festival from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. May 4-5, where you can enjoy traditional Mexican music and dance along with exhibitors and, of course, eat Mexican food.
The Monterey Park Cinco de Mayo Festival has been held for nearly 40 years. Folklorico dancers, mariachis and other popular Mexican music will fill Barnes Park from 1-6 p.m. This free festival is very community oriented, and one of its centerpieces is the prize-packed raffle.
On May 4, Huntington Library, Art Gallery and Botanical Gardens (huntington.org) hosts a more low-key but colorful holiday-related event. This month’s children’s flower arranging workshop for ages 7 and older will focus on making a Cinco de Mayo floral display from 1-2:30 p.m. The registration fee of $45 includes one accompanying adult. There’s also a flower-arranging class for adults.
While not technically a Cinco de Mayo event, the Sonia De Los Santos concert at 3 p.m. May 5 at The Soraya (thesoraya.org) will hit a similar musical note. The acclaimed family musician, best known for her time playing with Dan Zanes, performs bilingual songs that reflect Mexican (she was raised in Mexico) and American culture (she now lives in New York City). Tickets are $33.