May 042005
Authors: Caroline Welch

Mariachi music, Aztec dancers and the scent of authentic Mexican fajitas will fill the Lory Student Center Plaza today to kick off a Cinco de Mayo celebration that will take place in Fort Collins through the weekend.

The celebration on the Plaza starts with opening remarks at 10:30 a.m. and continues until 2 p.m.

"The most important part of the celebration is the history of Cinco de Mayo," said Elisa Hernandez, president of the National Hispanic Institute on campus and a sophomore psychology major. "We want to share Mexican history and culture with the community by bringing traditional music and food."

Many people think Cinco de Mayo celebrates Mexico's independence, but the holiday is really about celebrating a victory over the French, Hernandez said.

During the Mexican Reformation, France's Maximilian tried to take Mexico's throne but was defeated by Mexican soldiers at the border. This victory, which took place on May 5, 1862, is now celebrated as Cinco de Mayo.

But Rich Salas, executive director of the Cinco de Mayo celebration, said everyone gains something from the history of Cinco de Mayo.

"The historical significance of this celebration is up to each individual's interpretation," said Salas, also assistant director of El Centro Student Services. "For me personally, it means that, regardless of our personal challenges in life we can overcome overwhelming odds and be successful with the determination that was exemplified in 1862 at the battle of Puebla."

Celebrations continue Saturday in Old Town Square with more traditional food, award-winning entertainment and the annual 'Cinco/Cinco' 5K run, Salas said.

"This year, we are excited to host a top-quality celebration that focuses on family fun," Salas said.

Grammy nominee Jay Perez, a Tejano musician, will perform Saturday and Sunday nights at the Sundance Steakhouse and Saloon. Perez is a five-time vocalist and Entertainer of the Year by Tejano Music Awards and three-time Male Entertainer of the Year, Salas said.

Cinco de Mayo is one of many diverse celebrations CSU and Fort Collins holds throughout the year.

"I am proud to be a part of a university that values and truly supports the mission of diversity on campus and the larger community," Salas said. "CSU embraces these diverse situations to demonstrate that we value these celebrations for all people."

Oftentimes, these celebrations appeal to prospective students.

"Students are attracted to university communities that celebrate diverse events," Salas said. "Partnerships and support from CSU, the city of Fort Collins and foundations like the Bohemian Foundation make a positive impact, both directly and indirectly in the area of recruitment for all students, but in particular Hispanic students."

Carlos Galvan, a sophomore speech communication major, said he got involved with the Hispanic institute and Cinco de Mayo because he wants to feel involved.

"I feel like a part of the community," Galvan said. "When I am doing something I feel complete. It's a need and it is part of my life."

This year, the celebration was funded by $40,000 in grants, with a majority of the funding coming from the Bohemian Foundation, Salas said.

"Seeing people from all different backgrounds come together for an event like

this and enjoy themselves and celebrate diversity in community excites me every year," Salas said.

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