Cinco de Mayo marks a Mexican historical event, but many events are slated for Utah

The undated photo shows the Danza y Color Mexican folkloric dancing group of Utah performing. The group will perform at varied Cinco de Mayo events on Friday and Saturday.

The undated photo shows the Danza y Color Mexican folkloric dancing group of Utah performing. The group will perform at varied Cinco de Mayo events on Friday and Saturday. (Zeniff Mejia, Danza y Color Utah)

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SALT LAKE CITY — When he lived in Puebla, Mexico, Zeniff Mejia remembers huge celebrations each year on May 5.

"Of course in all the streets there's a lot of food, parties and everything else," he said.

Mexican government offices in Puebla would close, kids got the day off from school and a huge parade would be held in the central Mexican city to mark Mexico's victory over invading French forces in the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. The annual celebration in Puebla continues, but Mejia, now living in West Jordan, marks the occasion — Cinco de Mayo in Spanish — with his dance group, Danza y Color Utah, offering up Mexican folkloric dance performances at varied Utah sites.

It's not quite like it was in Puebla — "I always miss it," he said — but it's still a big day. For those like him, who labor in the arts, "it is a special day to show all the culture to the community," he said.

Indeed, Cinco de Mayo, though not even a national holiday in Mexico, gets plenty of attention in the United States given the Mexican roots of many in the country, and numerous events are planned across Utah to mark the occasion. Mejia and his dancers — joined by other folkloric dance groups, including visiting troupes from Mexico, Canada and Dallas, Texas — will be taking part in several of them.

Cinco de Mayo falls on a Sunday this year and most of the planned activities around Utah, free and open to the public, by and large, will occur Friday and Saturday. Here's a rundown of some of them:

  • The Tri-National Folkloric Dance Festival will be held Friday starting at 4 p.m. at the Utah Cultural Celebration Center in West Valley City. Dance performances will start around 6 p.m. Performers will include Danza y Color as well as Ballet Folklórico Si'Orí from Chihuahua, Mexico; SIMA Ballet Folklórico from Dallas, Texas; Grupo Mi Viejo San Simón, a Utah group that performs Bolivian folkloric dances; and Grupo Folklórico Tonatiuh, a Mexican folkloric dancing group from Toronto, Canada.
  • Mountain View Village in Riverton is hosting a Hispanic Heritage Celebration on Friday from 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Performers will include Senxao and Ballet Folklórico de las Américas.
  • The city of Payson is hosting a Cinco de Mayo event on Friday from 5-9 p.m.
  • The same five groups from the West Valley City event will perform at a Cinco de Mayo celebration at the Mexican Civic Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday. The dance performances will begin around 7 p.m., but doors open at around 4 p.m., according to Mejia, with Mexican Civic Center officials to recognize community boosters with awards starting around 6 p.m.
  • The Cache Valley Media Group is hosting a Cinco de Mayo event at the Cache County Fairgrounds in Logan on Saturday from noon to 8 p.m. Danza y Color and Ballet Folklólorico Si'Orí will be among the performers there before the Mexican Civic Center performances later in the day.
  • The Spanish-language radio station Mi Preferida 104.7 FM is hosting a Cinco de Mayo event on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Foxboro North Regional Park in North Salt Lake. SIMA Ballet Folklórico and Grupo Folklórico Tonatiuh will be among the performers, prior to the Mexican Civic Center performance. Numerous other music acts are also scheduled to perform.
  • The city of Ogden is hosting a Cinco de Mayo event on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Ogden Amphitheater. A car show is among the activities.
  • The city of Draper is hosting a Cinco de Mayo event on Saturday from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Danza y Color will be among the many performers.
  • A program featuring a historic look at the Battle of Puebla will be streamed over the Facebook page of the Mexican Consulate of Salt Lake City on Sunday starting at 10:30 a.m.

The win at the Battle of Puebla "represented a great symbolic victory for the Mexican government and bolstered the resistance movement" against French invaders, according to France withdrew from Mexico in 1867 owing in part to support and pressure from the United States, which had earlier been embroiled in the Civil War.

Nevertheless, El Sol de Mexico, a Mexico City news outlet, while calling the win at the Battle of Puebla a "transcendental" day in Mexican history, noted that it isn't a federal holiday.

"Accordingly, Mexican workers don't stop working on May 5 and they don't get extra pay as it's just like any other work day," according to an article in El Sol. The only federal day off in Mexico in May is May 1, Labor Day.

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Tim Vandenack covers immigration, multicultural issues and Northern Utah for He worked several years for the Standard-Examiner in Ogden and has lived and reported in Mexico, Chile and along the U.S.-Mexico border.


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