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The 19th annual National Cinco de Mayo Festival

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The 19th Annual National Cinco de Mayo Festival opened to a cheering crowd with the first "Marcha de la Musica" - a procession of colorful dancers and musicians swirling around the base of the Washington Monument.


The jubilant opening ceremony began with elaborately costumed performers descending from the main stage and onto the long path that traverses the deep green grass of the National Mall, past the ring of snapping American flags and the gleaming white monument to George Washington, in a raucous procession of Latin music and dance.

There were mariachis in charro suits and broad white sombreros, strumming guitars and playing horns. There were dancing beauties from Las Brisas de Chile in snowy-white costumes of the Rapa Nui from Easter Island, tango dancers from Pontitango, children in traditional Mexican costumes, stately women dressed as Tehuanas from the State of Oaxaca, and Los Tequanis dancers from the State of Puebla, including characters dressed comically as "Death" and the "Devil."

When the performers had completed their boisterous circle around the monument, they returned to the main stage of the Sylvan Theater for a performance of classic Mexican folk dances by Ballet Folklorico Mi Herencia Mexicana with DC Mariachi.

They were followed by the rock-with-a-message band Anexo Social, Banda Los Detectives, and the big-band sounds of Orquesta Zeniza and the DC Casineros salsa rueda dance group. Vicky Leyva and her “Raices y Expresiones" closed the show with a stirring and passionate performance of Peruvian song and dance.

Latin hip-hop artist Cristopolis was the master of ceremonies, and he performed a powerful set of his own. The other hip-hop performer was DC/Chilean rapper V-MASTA.

The Maru Montero Dance Company, the host of the annual festival, performed with guest artist Joel Zarazua from Mexico City.


There were dance contests for “zapateado” or Mexican tap, hip-hop and polka-style quebradita and Duranguense. The most unusual contest

was a challenge to dance with a large metal tray filled with glasses of water – on your head! Prizes included $100 gift cards, official Cinco de Mayo sombreros and t-shirts.

“Tio Marcos” was again one of the most popular attractions at the festival, entertaining a laughing crowd with cheers and encouragement while playing La Loteria, a game of Mexican bingo.

Colombian fashion designer StellaBonds dazzled everyone withe stunning models showing off women's swimwear and couture dresses. The audience loved the girls in StellaBonds' tiny tops and the gorgeous, bronzed male model wearing giant feathered wings.

Across the park at the Global Stage, Eddy Zapata, Elizabeth Gonzalez and Gabriela Canales never seemed to tire during an incredible all-day zumba marathon.

Latin American artists displayed paintings and sculptures in an exhibit curated by Mexican painter Gloria "La Tarasca" Valdez. The artists included Jacinto Cruz Chavez, Carlos H. Guerra, Rafael Corzo Brizuela and Carmen Torruella Quander.

Alfio Blangiardo, the chef at Casa Oaxaca restaurant, carved a 300-pound block of ice into a miniature Washington Monument. Alfio generously allowed creative and curious young people in the audience to help with the carving.


Maya and Miguel strolled the festival grounds and delighted the youngest people at the festival. Little faces brightened into big smiles when they saw their bilingual friends from the PBS television network.

Anibal Gomez Toledo, head of the consular section of the Embassy of Mexico, explained the significance of Cinco de Mayo. The Mexican government donated hundreds of educational books that were given away free during the day.

Maru Montero, the founder and organizer of the event, said the holiday began in Mexico but has taken on new meaning in the United States among immigrants and all Americans. Here, in the heart of the nation's capital, the day has become a celebration of all Latino culture, she said, adding with a smile and a rousing cheer: "On Cinco de Mayo, everybody's Latino!"

At the Children's Pavilion, a bilingual team staffed busy craft tables where children made candy-filled pinatas, paper flowers, Mexican puppets, Aztec headdresses, hair braids, bracelets, Native American dream-catchers and other crafts.

The day of activities was made possible by our sponsors, including the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities and the Freddie Mac Foundation. Telemundo was the media sponsor and MAYA provided public relations and marketing.

The National Cinco de Mayo Festival is a registered trademark.

Photos by Ramon Jacobson.


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Check back for schedule and updates on the 2012 Festival




Thank You to Our 2011

Freddie Mac Foundation

The photos below are courtesy of Gary Jean Photoworks





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