May 042009

Although Cinco de Mayo is not celebrated in the same fashion in Mexico as in the U.S., it is widely celebrated throughout the nation, and CSU student Reese Orozco refers to today’s holiday as a day to embrace the Hispanic culture.

Orozco, a sophomore political science major and member of Nu Alpha Kappa, grew up with his mother in downtown Denver in a predominantly Latino neighborhood. Overall, Orozco credited his mom for his appreciation for the holiday.

“(Cinco de Mayo is) a day where we can be proud of who we are,” Orozco said. “Being Hispanic, there’s not many days to celebrate our culture. Cinco de Mayo is one of the main holidays for that. It’s a really rich and cultural experience.”

Cinco de Mayo is a day of celebration for many Hispanics. Although often confused as Mexico’s Independence Day, explains that Cinco de Mayo commemorates the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862 where 2,000 Mexicans fought and defeated the 6,000 French troops in the French-Mexican War.

While reminiscing of his previous experiences celebrating Cinco de Mayo, Orozco remembers the day as a time for family, friends and good food. He often times spent the day at barbecues and block parties enjoying tortillas, roasted jalapeños and carne asada.

Raquel Ramirez, a senior social work major, also spent her days celebrating Cinco de Mayo with the ones closest to her.

“To me, (Cinco de Mayo is) a time for Latinos to get together and be grateful for what you have,” Ramirez said. “It’s important because it’s an opportunity for Latinos to embrace their culture.”

According to Orozco, during the Cinco de Mayo celebration in Denver every year, Federal Boulevard fills with thousands of proud Latinos embracing their culture.

“Lots of my friends marked (Cinco de Mayo) in their calendars for months ahead of time,” Orozco said.

While attending George Washington High School in Denver, Orozco participated in a popular pastime during the holiday, cruising down Federal Boulevard with his friends. Even when he was too young to drive, Orozco and his friends built derby go-karts to cruise the side streets.

Ramirez shared similar experiences of steering down Federal Boulevard with flags flailing in the wind, running into friends and family.

“It’s another holiday for me, I’m aware of it, I plan for it and I know what festivals are going on,” Ramirez said. “It’s time as a family to celebrate.”

After deciding to move to Fort Collins to attend CSU, Orozco admitted that he faced “a bit of culture shock” when he first moved up here. With only a handful of Hispanics in Fort Collins compared to his community back in Denver, it was hard to adjust at first. But through advocacy offices such as El Centro, Orozco met many of his friends.

Orozco explained that the Fort Collins festivities focus more on the traditional culture of dancing and Latino music. And while in his experience, Denver festivities focus more on barbeques with the family, he enjoys both and admits that experiencing each individually has made him embrace and cherish the holiday more.

“Neither one is better. It’s just the other side of the coin,” Orozco said. “I took it for granted in Denver but now I’m more appreciative. It makes me feel more connected on campus and reminds me of home. With Hispanics and other minorities heavily outnumbered, (Cinco de Mayo makes you) feel like you belong more.”

Staff Writer Justyna Tomtas can be reached at

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