There’s no shortage of opportunities this Cinco de Mayo to celebrate Denver’s Mexican and Chicano community and culture.
First, a little history. For starters, it’s not Mexican Independence Day. That’s September 16.
May 5 commemorates the Batalla de Puebla which took place on May 5, 1862 when the outnumbered and poorly equipped Mexican army were victorious over French troops sent by Napoleon III.
At that time, a wave of Mexican miners moved to California during the age of the gold rush. The first Cinco de Mayo celebration took place in California in 1863, when Mexicans and people from the U.S. in the state used the battle’s anniversary to raise money to support those still fighting against the French, which were not entirely expelled from Mexico until 1867.
Though the holiday is sparsely celebrated in Mexico, Cinco de Mayo has become a celebration of heritage, pride and culture for Mexicans living in the U.S. Denver’s first Cinco de Mayo festival was organized by the West Side Coalition in 1973, before eventually tapering off years later.
Community development corporation (CDC), Newsed, started in 1973 with the task of reinvigorating the community through commercial development. And in 1987, Newsed brought Cinco de Mayo back to Denver — and the annual Cinco de Mayo event at Denver’s Civic Center Park is back this year along with other celebrations around the city.
Here’s what you need to know about Cinco de Mayo events worth checking out this week:
Cinco de Mayo at Denver Civic Center Park
Date: May 6-7, 10-8 p.m. both days
The weekend-long celebration will include chihuahua races, taco eating contests, lowrider car shows, live musical performances, and a Cinco de Mayo community parade.
There will be three stages of live musical and dance performances featuring Mexican regional bands and genres such as mariachi, banda, cumbia and more. The lineup of performances for both days can be found here.
The Cinco de Mayo “Celebrate Culture” Parade will take place Saturday, May 6 starting at 11:30 a.m. It will wind through downtown Denver and arrive at the Civic Center park main area. For a detailed route of the parade, visit here.
For detailed information about the event, including details about chihuahua races, taco eating contests and lowrider shows, click here.
Cinco de Mayo en Westwood
Date: Saturday, May 6, 12-7 p.m.
Location: 3700 to 3900 Morrison Rd.
The third annual Cinco de Mayo en Westwood community celebration takes place this Saturday. This free event honors the historical significance of the Batalla de Puebla and how it has created a sense of unity and pride for the Mexican/Mexican-American community.
The event will feature an art show, lowriders, live music, cultural dance performances, mariachi, lucha libre, local vendors, Mexican food and more.
This year’s featured artist is 19-year old In Lak’ech Denver Arts visual arts instructor, Aalycia Rodriguez. She is a Chicana multimedia artist and teacher, born and raised in the Southwest Denver community with family roots in both Chihuahua, Mexico, and Denver.
The art show will also feature an installation made of small hand made piñatas designed and created by 5th-12th grade youth from In Lak’ech Denver Arts as well as a photo exhibit highlighting local photographers’ work from past Westwood events.
Live music performances will include local bands The Original ILLs, Movete Chiquita Vinyl Club, Grupo 440, and Mariachi Alma del Folklore.
Food will include an extensive enchilada menu from Kahlo’s, ceviche from Mi Gusto Es, Oaxacan cuisine from La Reyna del Sur, handmade gorditas from Irma Lopez, salsas from Mujeres Emprendedoras, spicy chamoy candies from Besitos Chamoy, agua frescas, desserts and chocolate from Cultura Chocolate, and more.
First Friday at Museo De Las Americas
Date: Friday, May 5, 5-9 p.m.
Location: 861 Santa Fe Dr.
The Latin American Art Museum on Santa Fe is hosting a Cinco de Mayo celebration that feature a presentation by the Ballet Folklórico at 7 p.m. The evenings celebration of Mexican culture and tradition will also feature food trucks, refreshments and a chance to peruse through their current exhibits on 17th century art of the Rio Grande River Valley, a historically accurate model the Mayan temple in Uxmal, Mexico, and their latest exhibit which highlights the identity of Colombian territories.
Cinco de Mayo: Two-Day Celebration in Five Points
Date: May 5-6
Location: Five Points Plaza, 2736 Welton St.
The two-day event will turn Denver’s historic African American cultural district into a vibrant fiesta featuring Latin-Jazz themed music along Welton St. There will be live performances, guest DJ’s, food trucks and a variety of vendors featuring across all participating locations.
Festivities will be kicked off on Friday, May 5 at 5:30 p.m. at Lawson Park (2301 Welton St) with a performance by Jon Romero and the Taco Cats. Guests are invited to bring their lawn chairs.
Music will continue at 7 p.m. with a performance by Mistura Fina at Five Points Plaza or head to Goed Zuur (2801 Welton St) for Jazz Nights. At 8 p.m. Vince Wiggins & His Latin Social Groove will be performing at Spangalang Brewery (2736 Welton St).
On Saturday, Mile High Festivals, Spangalang Brewery and Agave Shore will be hosting “The Latin Soul Party in The Plaza” starting at 4 p.m. in the Five Points Plaza where guests can expect live music from Don L & Friends, KUVO’s Latin Soul Party, salsa dance lessons from ArtistiCO Dance, tequila tasting, vendors and immersive activities for all to enjoy.
Ciudad Reina at Enigma Bazaar
Date: Friday, May 5
Location: 4923 West 38th Ave, 7 p.m.
Ciudad Reina, a Denver art collaborative comprised of KUVO’s Super Sonido host La Molly and El Jaguar from Oaxaca, Mexico, is hosting a party featuring Latine sounds at Enigma Bazaar (4923 West 38th Ave).
DJ Love will start the night playing a selection of retro and new Latine sounds, including other alternative rock, lo-fi, electronica, hip-hop, pop-rock and cumbia through the night.
The 21+ event starts at 7 p.m. and tickets are $10 at entry.
First Friday Cinco de Mayo Art Show at BuCu West Denver
Date: Friday, May 5
Location: 4200 Morrison Rd. Unit 3, 5-7 p.m.
Nonprofit BuCu West Denver, in partnership with the Southwest Denver Coalition, Denver Children’s Affairs and Art Students League of Denver, is hosting an art show in Westwood.
The event will feature artwork from youth and art instructors and will include activities such as piñata making and live art.
Cinco de Mayo Fiesta + First Friday at Chicano Humanities & Arts Council
Date: Friday, May 5, 6-9 p.m.
Location: 1560 Teller St. Lakewood, CO. 80214
CHAC Gallery is hosting their Cinco de Mayo celebration on Friday featuring various food trucks and vendors.
On display will be their exhibit, Flor Y Canto, which is an ancient Meso American festival of life, flower and song, dedicated to Folklorist Rita Flores-Wallace.
Cinco de Mayo Perreo Party at Temple Nightclub
Date: Friday, May 5, 9 p.m.
Location: 1136 Broadway