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Senter Park celebrates Cinco de Mayo with color, music, food

Photo: As mariachi music plays, youngsters dance around a decorated cross in honor of Dia de la Santa Cruz. /Photo by Jessica Sluys 

Food, fun, and friendly faces were just some of the ingredients used to create the awesome concoction that was the Cinco de Mayo celebration at Irving’s Senter Park Recreation Center on Saturday, May 7.

What started as a way to commemorate the day the Mexicans beat the French at the Battle of Puebla in 1862, has now become a larger, more vivacious way for the community to come together and enjoy Mexican history and culture.

The recreation center was thriving. Scents of sizzling Mexican cuisine drifted through the air, a variety of bright colors decorated everything from sponsor booths to celebrants, and the sounds of Latin music could be heard both inside and out. It truly was the definition of a celebration.

“It just gets better every year. It just keeps growing,” event chairman Luis Morgan said.

The celebration was originally just an indoor event. Now they make use of the gymnasium, the park grounds, and even the parking lot.

“Next year we’re going to make it to the river,” Morgan said, gesturing to the body of water a few yards away. He also added that next year’s event would have Aqua Zumba, although it will take place in the recreation center’s pool, not the river.

While Aqua Zumba was not on the list of activities, there definitely was not a shortage of things to do. Volleyball, basketball, dancing, and performances were happening all day. Lots of youngsters in fun colors and sparkly sequins took to the stage to show their love and support for their country and culture.

Among these many performers was Margarita Gonzalez—a fifteen-year-old with a fantastic voice. She sang “Viva Mexico” while garbed in a traditional Mexican ensemble complete with a superb sombrero.

“I’ve been performing for the past three years at the Cinco de Mayo Celebration,” Gonzalez said. “This was the first stage I ever stepped on, and it was amazing.”

“I love the music,” five-year-attendee, Judy Kearney, said. Whether people were dancing to it, singing along, or just enjoying those who were, the sounds of Cinco de Mayo definitely served as the festival’s heartbeat.

Providing the pulse of the heartbeat was a nine-man mariachi band. The band entertained guests with their assortment of musical instruments and singing voices even while migrating across the grounds to make it to the Día de la Santa Cruz portion of the festival.

“It’s called El Día de la Santa Cruz, which is the Day of the Saint Cross,” Morgan said. “It’s the one day where the employers have a meal with the workers, and we’re recreating it right here.”

As part of the recreation, a cross was laid against a tree and decorated with vibrantly colorful ribbons and paper flowers. Children were then invited to dance around the cross in a circle while the mariachi band played cheery melodies for them to move their feet to.

“I’m a people watcher, and I love seeing everybody smiling,” John Cantu said. Cantu was there in support of his daughter-in-law, enjoying the festivities. “The tacos are delicious.”

He was not wrong. Food trucks and food stands with Mexican delicacies lined the front of the recreation center. Among some of these tasty, traditional treats was the Mexican beverage called rusa.

Rusa is essentially Mexican grapefruit soda mixed with chamoy and citrus fruits. Sprinkle the rim of the cup with some chili powder after adding a Tamarido candy stick straw, and you have yourself an interesting yet satisfying way to stay refreshed on a sunny day.

If saddened because Cinco de Mayo has come and gone, worry not. It’s an annual event and the Irving community will be sure to put on another spectacular celebration for their 29th year in a row come next May.