Largest Cinco de Mayo festival celebrates big in honor of Latino community and its anniversary.
The ‘adopted’ holiday marks the May 5, 1862 battle in Puebla won by an outnumbered Mexican army over French forces. It is a day ceremoniously celebrated in the U.S., but often overlooked in Mexico — Sept. 16 is the country’s Independence Day.
Cinco de Mayo, in the U.S., is often considered across the country as a time to celebrate in a party like atmosphere honoring the Latino culture. However, if you look deeper into the roots of the national festivities, you’d see that they, too, hold a rich history.
“The early days were interesting because the early days were on Santa Fe Drive,” said Veronica Barela, president/CEO of the nonprofit NEWSED C.D.C. When we started back in 1987 it was just a one-day event and it just kept growing.” Eventually, NEWSED had to relocated to its present location at Civic Center Park where it hosts hundreds of thousands of people annually.
Barela credits the late Pierre Jimenez, a good friend of hers, as the reason behind the Cinco de Mayo event. She recalled a conversation they had where he asked her, “Why don’t you bring back Cinco de Mayo on Santa Fe like years ago?” She said he is the reason behind bringing Cinco back to the West Side.
La Voz asked Veronica’s daughter, Andrea, what her earliest memories of Cinco de Mayo were, she said: “I was eight years old when the event started. I remember when it was on Santa Fe Drive. As I became older, I was working the soda booth just like everyone else and trying my best to support NEWSED as all our volunteers do.” She is currently NEWSED’s development director and began working there six years ago.
Today, Cinco de Mayo in Denver is recognized as the largest event of its kind in the United States by broadcast entities like MSNBC. More than 400,000 people attend annually, taking in the rich culture evidenced by the music, food, activities and most importantly — its people.
Veronica Barela expressed her astonishment at the feat saying, “… because the Southwest is so large … you think other cities have a larger event.” She continued, “It makes me feel great that Denver is an authentic city and puts the kind of events that is does.”
Andrea Barela would like people to know that Cinco de Mayo is a genuine NEWSED event benefiting the community. “The work that we do, the success filters back to the community,” she said. Earnings at the event “[go] back to the programs … it all cycles back, it all comes full circle.”
“My staff and Andrea have really brought Cinco to a new level. Renee Ortiz (with EventFul Productions, Inc.) … has been fantastic and I have some really good people that make this event come together,” Veronica Barela said.
“All credit is due to Veronica — she is the reason why this event exists,” Andrea Barela said about her mother. “The event would not exist without her initial vision.” She also said, “We have a good team and we all work really well together.”
All are invited to attend the 25th anniversary of the Cinco de Mayo festival from 10 a.m. – 8 p.m., Saturday, May 5 and Sunday, May 6 at Civic Center Park. The Cinco de Mayo Parade will be held at 10 a.m. on Saturday and Un Toque de México will also be held at the park. La Voz has been a sponsor of Cinco de Mayo for many years.
“It’s quite a celebration for me personally and even more so for this organization,” Veronica Barela said. “It’s a wonderful cultural event for the city of Denver.”