Thousands Gather at Washington Monument for 23rd Annual National Cinco de Mayo Festival®
Photos by: Elena Remez
Some 10,000 people celebrated Latino music, dance and culture at the 23rd annual National Cinco de Mayo Festival® on May 3, 2015 at the Sylvan Theater near the Washington Monument in Washington, DC.
The main stage featured live performances all day, including pre-Hispanic dance, and dances from Mexico, El Salvador, Peru, Panama and other parts of Latin America and the Caribbean. The music ranged from salsa to bachata to banda.
“This is not just a Mexican celebration, but a celebration of the culture of all parts of Latin America and Caribbean, and it is for everyone to enjoy,” said Maru Montero, founder of the Festival. “That’s why we say, “On Cinco de Mayo, everybody’s Latino!”
The free Festival was made possible by the League of United Latin American Citizens. LULAC President Bent Wilkes welcomed the crowd, along with Mexican Consul Juan Carlos Mendoza Sanchez, who gave a brief history of Cinco de Mayo. Sponsors of the Maru Montero Dance Company include the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities and the Mayor’s Office on Latino Affairs, who was represented at the festival by Jackie Reyes, the new director.
The diverse crowd included newly arrived immigrants, longtime U.S. residents of Hispanic descent, African Americans, Asian Americans and whites. Many families with small children came and spent the entire day watching the performances and sitting on the grass under sunny skies.
Violeta Howard organized the Children’s Pavilion with help from dozens of student volunteers, three of whom came all the way from the Netherlands. Children made hair braids of colorful yarn, Mexican puppets, piñatas, “dream catchers” from yarn and other crafts.
A big hit again this year were the Mexican cowboys and cowgirls from the Asociacion de Charros de Virginia, who performed riding and roping tricks in a ring. The costumes were colorful and authentic, and the horses were beautifully groomed for the festival.
The more adventurous tried their luck in the dance contests for ranchera music, bomba, cumbia, bachata and salsa. The most-unusual - and the trickiest - contest was dancing with a tray of glasses filled with water – on your head! Winners took home prizes.
Luis “Sugar” and Maspaz painted a large mural, cartoon characters Maya and Miguel said hello and posed for pictures, and volunteers from the Mount Pleasant Neighborhood DC Public Library read stories and did crafts.
The show opened with a massive collaboration of children’s dance companies including Para Chicos, Danza Tecuanis, Fundacion Elena, Monarca Dance, the Tinkus Ch’aukas, and the Mini Monteros and the Micro Monteros from the Maru Montero Dance Company.
Vonkayk sang romantic bachata, Danza Divino Salvador performed traditional dances from El Salvador, followed by the Yuyarinaypac Peruvian folk music and dance company. The Sakee rock fusion band kicked up the volume before a performance by the Grufolpawa folk dancers from Panama.
Dominican bachatero Jau-D performed songs from his new album. Triunfadores del Cuatro got the crowd dancing before the set by Bachata 503. Headliner Verny Varela and his orchestra closed the festival with upbeat salsa.
Michelle Barreta from George Washington University got everybody moving with a Zumba workshop on the Global Stage. Other performers included Cantoral Tres and Osvaldo and Adela and Tango Preview Dancers.
Tacos and burritos were sold by Sol and Kalavera, and Dolce Sweets offered alfajores (cookies), chilled flan and other Latin American desserts.
Thank you to all the performers, artists, volunteers and families who helped make the National Cinco de Mayo Festival® a great success.