Celebrating cultural heritage

Spirits run high at annual Cinco de Mayo event

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When Bette Carlson, vice president of the Comunidad Integrada board of directors, woke up Saturday morning, she found snow on her front lawn.

The weather 40 miles down the road in Craig wasn't much nicer.

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Still, Carlson braved the elements and made her way to the third annual Cinco de Mayo celebration at the Moffat County Fairgrounds, where spirits ran high despite overcast skies and cool temperatures.

She was one of an estimated 500 people who visited the five-hour celebration throughout the day.

"The whole objective of this," Carlson said, "is to bring people together. To get the immigrants to know the local people and vice versa."

Comunidad Integrada, a public service organization pledged with supporting and promoting successful integration in Moffat and Routt counties, sponsored the event.

The event pays homage to the Mexican defeat of the French Army at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. It is one of Mexico's two days commemorating its independence; the other is el Dieciseis de Septiembre, or Sept. 16.

Director Summer Laws said more food and entertainment were added to this year's event, and a new wrinkle -- a talent show featuring musical performances, salsa dancing, poetry and a reading of a Pablo Neruda work -- was particularly popular.

The central theme behind the event, Laws said, is to bridge the gap between the Hispanic and Anglo communities. Although some organizers were disappointed with the Anglo turnout Saturday, Laws said there was some diversity among the crowd.

"That's what we really aim for, an exchange between people learning from each other," she said.

The other purpose behind the celebration, she said, is publicizing Comunidad events and groups, such as the Intercambio English and Spa--nish Conversational Group, which meets at 7 p.m. Tuesdays at the Boys & Girls Club of Craig, and an upcoming workshop on immigrant's rights.

The Know Your Rights World Cafe is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. May 15 and 22 at the Boys and Girls Club of Craig. The Denver-based Rights for All People will present information on the rights of immigrants and their children living in the United States.

The workshop provides a platform for immigrants to relay their input on issues they feel are important and on community integration, Laws said.

The Cinco de Mayo celebration will be a fixture for years to come for Comunidad, she said.

The event may look different from year-to-year, she said, but its core theme -- bringing two communities together -- will remain the same.

Mark Rydberg, director of finance for the Moffat County School District and a Comunidad board member, said Saturday's event was a success and would have been more so had the weather cooperated.

"It's a good crowd," Rydberg said. "It would have been nice if we had a little more Anglo participation, but I think it would have been better if the weather was nicer."

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