May 10, 1991
By Yolanda Reynolds
The Jose Cinco de Mayo celebration, coordinated by the San Jose G.I. Forum this past weekend, was particularly special for a number of reasons. The celebration was possibly the largest gathering of people in downtown San Jose history, with an estimated 100,000 plus persons in attendance. Lt. Bruce Rey, a 20-year veteran of the San Jose Police department says, “to my knowledge this is the largest gathering of people ever, for downtown San Jose.”
The community was entertained with many activities and the Sunday morning parade. There were plays, both Saturday and Sunday, and many hours of music and dancing beginning Friday with noontime music in Plaza Park.
The biggest day celebration was Sunday, May 5, which began with a morning parade. Of particular interest that day were the activities at “El Centro de Nuestra Cultura” in the old San Jose Convention Center. This year was one of the first times that the beautiful artwork of local Hispanic artists was exhibited indoors. Indeed, the improved conditions for exhibiting their artwork attracted some very notable and renowned artists.
G.I. Forum member, Al Castellano, coordinated the activities at the Centro. There was a juried art Show, at which a number of prizes were awarded in four different categories.
In the photo art category Mary Andrade, co-publisher with her husband, Frank, of this newspaper, won first prize for her photo of a Church of Cholula. La Iglesia del Cerrito, one of a series taken in Puebla, Mexico.
J. Pablo Soto, oil painter and pencil drawing artist, won ﬁrst prize in the “art class” for his painting of Frida Kahlo. Robert Torres was awarded first prize for sculpture. Torres works with soapstone and bronze.
The “Best of the Show” awarded went to Pilar Aguero who does oil painting, drawings and prints. Others who received awards or Honorable Mention were: portrait artist John Flores and Jim Flores, Josefa Chavez for their paintings; Ralph E. Muñoz and Rudolfo Suarez in graphic arts; Luz Elena Limas for artistic piñatas; Edward Ramirez and Margie Gaeta for their photography. Almost 40 artists exhibited their work at the Centro.
Other outstanding work was that of artist Hugo Lecaros a water colorist and oil painter and sculptor Martin Hernandez.
Also at the Centro, the Mariachi Azteca de “Pato” Diaz performed the festive and romantic music traditional of mariachi musical groups on Sunday afternoon. Francisco “Pato” Diaz and his group have been performing mariachi music in San Jose since 1975.
The “Group Tezcatlicopa,” is a dance group that performs ancient Aztec dances which its founder, David Vargas, learned from the son of an Aztec chieftan, Florencio Yescas, who came to San Francisco from Mexico to be near his family. After moving to the United States, Yescas founded dance groups in Los Angeles and San Francisco. He taught all aspects of Mexican folklore to students of all ages from 4 years old to over 80. Yescas died in San Francisco in 1985.
Also performing Sunday afternoon was “El Grito de la Cultura,” a part of the Folklorico Nacional Mexicano, is led by Elena Robles and sponsored by CET (Center for Employment Training) as part of the training program of that world renowned school. CET believes that an appreciation and celebration of one’s culture is important for the enhancement of self esteem and personal development.
Most of the groups that performed Sunday afternoon began as part of a family project that grew to include the friends, neighbors, and ultimately others from throughout the City.
Many others in San Jose participated in celebrations such as that by KNEW, a “western/country” music radio station, which celebrated Cinco de Mayo with a call-in “piñata” promotion. Some newspapers described the signiﬁcance of the Cinco de Mayo to the Mexican-American community, the single largest population group within the Hispanic community of the United States.
Indeed, the celebration was a large and happy event. Elena Robles says, “it can be estimated that one in every eight residents of San Jose was in downtown that day.” She says San Jose has approximately 750,000 people. Over 100,000 were reported to have attended Sunday’s celebration.
Next year, G.I. Forum organizers say, the celebration will be even more spectacular. The City will be able to plan better how to accommodate such a Iarge crowd in San Jose whose downtown offered a pleasant ambience for the festive event.