National Cinco de Mayo Festival Celebrates 20 Years of Latino Culture and Family Fun
The 20th annual National Cinco de Mayo Festival featured music, dance and art representing styles and cultures from across Latin America,
from a humble group of Guatemalan folk dancers who paid their own way
to Washington, DC, to the Grammy-award winning "King of Salsa."
The celebration of Latino culture also included crafts for children,
Mexican cowboys, or charros, on horseback, an exhibit of Latin
American artists, and a health fair with demonstrations of healthy
eating and screenings for diabetes and other health problems.
“The Festival was a huge success,” said Maru Montero, president of the
Maru Montero Dance Company, and the founder of the annual event. “We
had great performers, but what makes it special is how audience
responds so enthusiastically to what we offer them.”
Perhaps the warmest welcome was for one of the more modest performers:
El Grupo Folklorico Uk’ Uxal Maria Tecun, a dozen dancers dressed in
traditional Mayan costumes from their small city of Solola, Guatemala.
“I got a call from them out of the blue and they said they were coming
to the Festival,” Montero recalled. “I said we can’t afford to pay for
the whole group to come here, and they said, ‘We don’t want your
money. We want to help you.’”
Not only did they perform beautifully, but dancer Aliflores Catarina
Ajpacaja Garcia presented Montero with a certificate of appreciation
and a banner made of Mayan-style fabric and sewn with words of thanks
for Montero’s efforts to promote Guatemalan culture in the United
The two women hugged on stage, cried a little, and the crowd roared its thanks.
Guatemala was not the only place represented at the international
festival. There were performers and artists from Puerto Rico, Peru,
Argentina, El Salvador, Nicaragua and other countries. Since Cinco de
Mayo is a Mexican holiday, there were plenty of Mexicans, including
authentic cowboys and elaborately costumed cowgirls known as
escaramuzas (and their horses) from Jalisco. There was Duranguense
dancing with Los Triunfadores del Norte from northern Mexico,
Veracruz-style dancers from southern Mexico, and Mariachis Los Amigos
playing some of the most-loved songs in all of Latin America.
The day-long event at the Washington Monument in Washington, DC, ended
with a performance by King of Salsa Luis Enrique, who won a Grammy in
2009 for his album Ciclos.
Other performers included Raices de Borinquen of Washington, DC, Mi
Herencia Mexicana, Grupo Folklorico Salvadoreno Sagrado Corazon,
Danzantes Los Tequanis, Grupo Folklorico Tinkus San Simon, Folkore
Argentino,Vicky Leyva and Grupo Folklorico Ritmos del Peru, Ballet
Folklorico de Panama en Washington (Grufolpawa), Danzantes Aztekas
Tletpapalotzin, La Chanchona de Los Hermanos Lovo, Kikoman Band, Verny
Varela, Grupo Pontitango, Trio Huapangero Los Camotes de la Sierra
and Los Tambores de San Juan.
The Maru Montero Dance Company performed several traditional Mexican
folk numbers, along with the youth troupe known as the
"Mini-Monteros." Alfonso Prado beautifully executed a difficult dance
through a swirling rope lariat.
Members of the audience joined the performers for numerous dance
contests judged by the crowd. The winners of the various contests -
including salsa and Duranguense - took home $100 gift cards from
Walmart and food baskets from Goya, plus official Festival t-shirts
and colorful, floppy sombreros.
Throughout the day, the Children's Pavilion hosted hundreds of
children making traditional crafts from Latin America. They made hair
braids from strands of colorful yarn; Aztec headdresses crowned with
jaguars, serpents and frogs; Mexican dancing puppets; paper flowers
and Mayan masks. The craft stands were staffed by bilingual volunteers
from area schools, including Wilson High School in the District.
Thanks to a partnership with the League of Latin American Citizens
(LULAC), free health screenings were offered by the Children's
National Medical Center, including dental, eye, Body Mass Index (BMI)
for weight control, and glucose. The Veterans Affairs office provided
physical and mental screening for veterans, and the Whitman-Walker
Clinic did HIV testing. Other exhibitors shared valuable tips on
healthy eating, cooking demonstrations and health resources available
to the Latino community.
The celebrity guests included Maya and Miguel and Dora the Explorer,
bilingual cartoon characters who walked through the crowd and posed
for pictures for delighted children and their families.
Many thanks to our partners and sponsors of the 20th Annual National
Cinco de Mayo Festival including LULAC, Walmart, Pepsico, McDonald's,
AARP, the State of Puebla, The Embassy and Consulate of Mexico, DC
Commission on the Arts and Humanities, DC Mayor's Office on Latino
Affairs, Elon Capital Partners, WHUT, the National Football League,
Univision, Telemundo, Radio Zol, Harger Sharp, Eventos VIP, The
National Park Service, Freddie Mac Foundation, Innova Graphics
Solutions, U.S. Park Police, MAYA, the Global Forum Video, Andromeda,
CD Fit, LLC, Children's Medical Center Mobile Unit, Chef Nadine, CMS,
DPA, HHS, U.S. Census Bureau, USDA, Veterans Affairs Mobile Unit,
Whitman-Walker Health Mobile and Veterans Affairs Mobile Unit