By Matt Larson
One of West Contra Costa County’s biggest times of the year, Cinco de Mayo, is fast approaching! May 3-4, 2014: Two jam-packed days of fun and excitement that is not to be missed.
Saturday morning begins with the 9th annual Cinco de Mayo Parade at 10 a.m. on 24th St. and Barrett Ave. in Richmond. It heads all the way to St. Paul’s Church in San Pablo for even more festivities throughout the day. “It’s just getting better and better,” says John Marquez, President of the Contra Costa Community College Board of Trustees, co-founder of the parade and former Richmond City Council member. “It’s free, it’s nonviolent and it’s good for the families. That’s what it’s all about,” he says. “More and more people are turning out to participate in the parade. If you don’t participate, then come out and join us as a spectator.”
This year the parade will have two grandmasters: Marco Gonzalez, who is a long-time principal at Downer Elementary School in San Pablo; and Edel Alejandre, who has been a counselor at Richmond High School for over 40 years.
One of the biggest draws of the parade are the “charros,” or “horsemen.” Professional horseriders showing off their mighty steeds. “It’s amazing,” says former San Pablo Mayor and current San Pablo City Council member Genoveva Calloway. “About 60-70 horses are dancing to the music while trotting down the street. A lot of people just come for that.” The horsemen don their fancy saddles and outfits, some coming from as far as Los Angeles and Bakersfield. Marquez adds, “They take care of their horses as others take care of their classic cars.” And yes, the parade will have classic cars, too.
“The children really inspire me to keep doing this every year,” says Calloway, who is also a co-founder of the parade. It was actually a group of soccer coaches and parents that first devised the idea of having a parade that would showcase the talents of young children in the area. “We convinced the group to have the parade on Cinco de Mayo,” says Marquez. “At the beginning they were reluctant because Cinco de Mayo celebrations in Richmond had been violent a few years prior, but we wanted to change that image.”
Things have certainly changed. “The violence that used to happen on 23rd Street stopped,” Calloway explains. “We’d been on Channel 2 news, helicopters would come, people would spin donuts in the street … Since the parade that has not happened ever again.” Marquez adds, “The purpose [of the parade] was to eliminate the violence.” Peace & Unity is the theme for the weekend. “The community gets to be proud of a celebration that honors them,” says Calloway. “It brings people together. And not just Latino—it’s a multicultural celebration.”
When the parade ends at St. Paul’s Church in San Pablo, the party is just getting started. “There are lots of entertainment plans,” says Cathy Domon, coordinator of the San Pablo Cinco de Mayo Festival. “We will have bandas, mariachis and dancers all day. Plus games for kids, a clown and [a petting zoo].”
Locally there is not only a large Latin community, but also Vietnamese, Portuguese, Filipino, African-American and Caucasian. “We do masses in four different languages,” Domon says. “That’s my favorite part, and I can interact with the whole community that we normally don’t see the rest of the year.”
A parade and a festival the whole family can enjoy, and that’s all just on Saturday. Sunday paves the way for the 8th Annual Cinco de Mayo Festival in Richmond that draws in people by the tens of thousands. Marquez credits the success of these festivities to one thing in particular: “Both days are alcohol free,” he says. “Some people may misunderstand that—[not “free alchohol”]—but no alcohol. Point blank.”
Come on out to Richmond and San Pablo May 3rd and 4th for two full days of Cinco de Mayo festivities right here in West Contra Costa County! Let’s make it yet another great year.
Details de Mayo
9th Annual Cinco de Mayo Peace & Unity Parade
When: May 3rd, 2014, 10 a.m. – noon
Where: Starts at Barrett Ave. & 24th St. in Richmond, turns right on 23rd St., then turns right on Market Ave. to end in front of St. Paul’s Church in San Pablo
Who: Contact John at (510) 612-2604
San Pablo Cinco de Mayo
When: Saturday May 3rd, 2014
11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Where: 1845 Church Lane, San Pablo
Who: Contact Cathy at (510) 232-5931 ext. 19
8th Annual Cinco de Mayo Festival
When: Sunday, May 4th, 2014 from
10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Where: On 23rd St. from Rheem Ave. to Grant Ave.
Who: Call 23rd Street Merchants Association at (510) 221-9006