Bridging the divide

Celebration unites communities split by national issues

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Immigration laws. Amnesty proposals. A giant wall separating America from Mexico.

These issues exist for politicians and pundits, the Rev. Jose Saenz said, and were the furthest thing from everyone's minds Saturday during the Cinco de Mayo celebration at the Moffat County Fairgrounds.

Red, white and blue meshed with red, white and green during the second annual event sponsored by Comunidad Inte--grada.

"Basically, I think a lot of (immigration debate) is done in the media," Saenz said. "It's really the radicals on one side or the other. ... I don't think they're speaking for everybody."

On a national level, Saenz said he can recall only one other period when as much tension existed between Hispanic and Anglo communities.

In the 1970s, the Brown Berets, a political activist group and the Hispanic answer to the Black Panthers, ruffled the feathers of mainstream America by joining the civil rights movement and fighting police harassment, inadequate public schools and political oppression.

However, differences that may exist nationally aren't as transparent in Craig, Saenz said. The second-year priest from St. Michael Catholic Church said he has seen no evidence of a divide between the Hispanic and Anglo communities.

Although organizers of the Cinco de Mayo celebration were hoping for more attendance, Comunidad Integrada Vice President Alvaro Landa said the event was a success nonetheless.

Between 350 and 400 people attended.

"We were hoping for a lot more, but it's still a lot better than last year," Landa said. "People have been staying longer than last year, and the weather's been good. Everyone has been having a good time."

Voz de mi Tierra -- a Denver-based mariachi band whose moniker means "Voice of my Land" -- and a troupe of high school dancers were the main attractions.

That's what kept Alma Tarango at the fairgrounds with her family for most of the day.

"I'll definitely be back next year," Tarango said through an interpreter.

Craig resident Fred Herrera brought his children, Trenci, Bridger and Jacob, to the fairgrounds Saturday.

Jacob, in particular, enjoyed the dancers, his father said.

"That and the music," he said.

"He was over there dancing along with it."

Landa said the point behind Saturday's event was to bridge the gap between two cultures.

"It's very important to us that we unite these communities," Landa said.

"We are part of the community also, and it's important to expose our culture to other people."

Josh Roberts can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 210, or jroberts@craigdailypress.com.

Alexis DeLaCruz of the Steamboat Pilot & Today contributed to this story.

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