By Marc “Mookie” Kaczor | SDUN Reporter
The 29th annual Fiesta Old Town celebration, organized by the Historic Old Town Community Foundation, will celebrate Cinco de Mayo and Mexican culture at the site historians refer to as “the birthplace of America.”
Old Town San Diego is where missionary Junípero Serra established the first mission in an effort to colonize California and the original territory of the Kumeyaay nation. Fiesta Old Town is one of the largest Cinco de Mayo celebrations in the western United States.
Lehn Goetz, Historic Old Town Community Foundation board president and proprietor of Old Town’s Café Coyote said, “With San Diego being so close to the border, it’s only natural to have such a multi-cultural and educational event here.”
Old Town resident Martha Steinman-Gutierrez has attended the Cinco de Mayo festivities every year since her move from Texas 10 years ago. “It’s a wonderful event designed to educate and inform,” she said. “There are too many people who still think Cinco de Mayo is all about drinking, partying and carrying on.”
Goetz agreed with Steinman-Gutierrez’s sentiment, saying, “We must not lose sight of the history of Cinco de Mayo. Our event will no doubt be an educational experience.”
Beer and tequila lovers will not be excluded. “Adults in attendance can enjoy certain libations from the… beer garden to the fruits of the agave,” Goetz said.
Restaurants, retailers and museums in Historic Old Town will participate in the festivities, and vendors will sell handmade leather pieces, jewelry and other traditional items on San Diego Avenue. The event will have three outdoor stages featuring live music from authentic mariachis, Spanish-speaking rock bands and DJs spinning dance music.
The children’s area will have a carnival atmosphere with a petting zoo and pony rides. There will be stagecoaches, Lucha Libre-style wrestling matches, soccer tutorials with professional soccer players, custom lowrider cars and a re-enactment of the “Batalla de Puebla,” or “Battle of Puebla.”
At the time of the “Batalla de Puebla,” Napoleon III, along with English and Spanish military forces, had a presence in Mexico. After the English and Spanish withdrew, Napoleon III decided to keep his forces in Mexico with the intent of colonizing and eventually bringing the French empire south of the United States. In May 1862, the French army engaged in battle with – and was defeated by – 5,000 Mestizo and Zapotec Native Americans. May 5 is the day that marks the Mexican victory of the Battle.
The kickoff for the festival includes a Freestyle Moto X demonstration and a performance by the Misa Azteca choir. Gates open at 5 p.m. on Friday, May 4, marking the first year the celebration will be three days long. Previously, the festival only spanned Saturday and Sunday.
Additionally, participants can purchase two-for-one COASTER tickets that apply to May 5 and 6. If participants purchase one ticket on a COASTER train, which runs from North County through Old Town, a second ticket is free.
The free, three-day celebration continues May 5 from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and May 6 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information visit fiestaoldtown.com