Sunday was the 47th Annual Cinco De Mayo parade in Southwest Detroit, a lively section of the city heavily populated by those of Mexican descent. Cinco de Mayo is an annual event celebrating the Mexican army’s implausible victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. While it has limited significance in Mexico, the date is observed in the United States as a celebration of Mexican heritage and pride. That pride was evident on Sunday.
The parade route stretched for about three miles along Vernor Highway, the main commercial district in that part of town. Much to my surprise, thousands of parade goers lined the route from end-to-end, in some cases standing 12 – 15 deep! Cycling the length of the route, I couldn’t help but notice that many in attendance were proudly wearing the colors or holding and waving the national flag of Mexico. Quite colorful!
Along the parade route there were smoking barbeques and the mouth-watering aroma of grilled chicken filled the air. Merchants had their goods spread out on tables along the sidewalks taking advantage of the heavy foot traffic. Both seemed to be doing a brisk business, as were the taco trucks tucked along side streets selling lunches at bargain prices.
The parade itself reflected the cultural heritage and vibrancy of the neighborhood. In addition to the normal marching bands, there were Mariachi Bands in the back of flatbed trucks; Mexican Rock and Roll bands playing on trailers; and record spinners were set-up and blasting a diverse mix of hip-hop music from the back of pick-up trucks. Some were even tossing cd’s of their recordings into the crowd. The variety of multi-cultural music in the parade was interesting, captivating and energizing.
Beyond the music, other parade participants reflected the population of the neighborhood. There were tricked out, chrome plated low rider bicycles moving in packs. Vintage 1960’s and 70’s low rider cars, equipped with hydraulic lifts contorting the vehicles at angles that didn’t make sense, bouncing slowly down Vernor to the approving cheers of the guys watching.
There were beauty queens and dancers of all ages. The little ones were taking advantage of the clapping, cheering crowds by spinning and twirling in their colorful costumes. All were smiling and waving as they passed the onlookers.
One of my favorites of the day was the dozen or so horsemen showing off their riding skills. They expertly put the horses through paces that included side movements, bucking, and stepping backward. One rider carefully worked his horse through the crowd as the little kids screamed in awe. I find Southwest Detroit fascinating, and the Cinco de Mayo celebration is one of the reasons why.