Cinco De Mayo in Oakland’s Fruitvale
on May 6, 2013
Coatlicue drummers and dancers occupied the island between East and West-bound traffic on International Blvd in Oakland, as they celebrated and prayed. With shells at their ankles and feathers on their crowns, over a dozen people congregated and moved to the beat. Smoke from lit herbs such as sage filled the intersection. Police directed traffic around the celebration, as passersby honked and waved.
In 1862 the Mexican army defeated the French army in the small town of Puebla. On May 5th, 2013 Oakland’s Fruitvale District, along with much of the Spanish speaking world, celebrated this battle in what is known as Cinco De Mayo.
Hundreds of people visited the Fruitvale area, and partook in face painting, boot dancing and the patronizing of street side vendors who sold everything from fruit and tacos to homemade ice cream.
Mayo, an older man who simultaneously spoke and smiled, stood on the corner selling sliced watermelons, mangos and other assorted fruits from his stand at 38th Avenue and International Blvd. He pointed to an animated image on his stand—an eagle adorned in a sombrero and draped in the colors of red and green. Mayo said, “it is the symbol of Mexico.”
The same symbol was on the hoods of cars, hung from the sides of buildings, and on the backs of pedestrians. Although this celebration emanates from a battle that took place in a small town in southern Mexico over 150 years ago, the spirit of “El Dia de la Batalla de Puebla”, or Cinco De Mayo, as most know it, is alive and well in the Fruitvale.
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It’s nice to see that communities are embracing a cultural tradition like Cinco de Mayo with openness. I know that historically California was not so culturally tolerant of Mexican-Americans.