Thousands of people attended the 15th annual National Cinco de Mayo Festival at the Washington Monument, enjoying a full day of music, dance, food, horses and workshops for children.
"This was the biggest and best Cinco de Mayo Festival we've ever had," said Maru Montero, founder of the Maru Montero Dance Company and organizer of the Festival. "This is a day when all of us get together to share the richness of Latino culture in the United States. As we say, 'On Cinco de Mayo, everybody is Latino!'"
The show on the massive main stage began at noon with a stirring performance by Mariachi Los Amigos and dancers from the Maru Montero Dance Company. Dancers wearing traditional Mexican costumes swirled and stomped their feet to the music, and in one dance, the men clanged razor-sharp machetes in a mock battle for the attention of a lovely woman.
In the Children's Pavilion, across the grounds of the National Mall, dozens of volunteers taught youngsters to make piñatas, weave strands of colored yarn into decorative braids, and decorate beautiful fans. Others played La Loteria, Mexican bingo, and won free multi-colored hats and t-shirts as prizes.
In a Festival first, authentic Mexican cowboys, called charros, dressed in their finest Western costumes and giant sombreros rode beautiful horses in a corral near the base of the Washington Monument. At the sound of guitars and trumpets of the mariachis, the horses pranced and kick in time with the music, appearing to "dance" to the Mexican folk music. The youngest Mexican cowboys, from the Asociacion de Charros de Virginia, gave pony rides to Festival guests.
For the next act on the main stage, the band Tikal played salsa and Santana while dancers from Saoco Distrito Casinero performed rueda, a type of lively Latin round dancing that originated in Cuba.
The masters of ceremonies, stars of the TV show "Nuestro Barrio," told the crowd that the Cinco de Mayo Festival is a celebration of all things Latino, not just Mexican culture.
"This is a chance for Latinos to celebrate our culture but also to give back something to everyone in the United States," said Nuestro Barrio star Viktor Hernandez. "We are part of this country and proud of it, no matter where we came from or where our parents came from."
Philosopher/recording artist and DC Latino Cristopolis, the inventor of "Thinking Hip Hop," rapped with his band in English and Spanish about becoming a more aware person and attracting abundance into our lives.
It was back to the ranches and open spaces of Northern Mexico with Los Tornados del Norte, whose lively ranchera and nortena sounds accompanied the Maru Montero Dance Company.
The crowd at the main stage was transported to Argentina with the sounds of QuinTango, a quintet of two violins, cello, bass and piano dedicated to playing the haunting and evocative sounds of tango. QuinTango was joined on stage by Carina Lozano and her partner. In keeping with the diversity of performers, young Rubi Howard made her singing debut on the big stage.
Other performers included the Panamanian folk dancers from Gufolpawa and Mirada Flamenca. Strolling through the crowd, and bestowing hugs and kisses, were animated stars Maya and Miguel.
Cubano Oscar Rousseaux and the Alafia singers and dancers, dressed in flowing white costumes, performed traditional and compelling Cuban music.
Closing the Festival, was the fabulous Enrique Araujo and the Zeniza All Stars salsa band and the Saoco dancers.
Throughout the day, children filled the workshop tent to make crafts and learn about Latino culture. They also learned about science from the bilingual exhibits by Celebra la Ciencia and the Smithsonian.