LORAIN — Saturday’s 15th annual Cinco de Mayo parade was the biggest in the history of the event, and it couldn’t have been in more gorgeous weather.
Under clear blue, sunny skies, a slight breeze and temperatures hovering around 70, a record 65 units made their way down Clinton Avenue past Oakwood Park as a crowd numbering in the hundreds looked on.
“This isn’t just for Mexicans,” parade organizer David Flores said Friday. “This is a day for celebrating and we’ve got a lot of groups and organizations that want to be part of it.”
“We’ve had people calling up today wanting to get in,” said Flores, vice president of the Mexican Mutual Club, which sponsored the parade and other activities tied into the observance of Cinco de Mayo. The date commemorates the May 5, 1862, Battle of Puebla, in which the Mexican Army defeated a much larger, better-equipped French force bent on making the country part of the French empire during the Franco-Mexican War that ran from 1861 to 1867.
The parade — which had vehicles and floats festooned with bright orange, white and green Mexican flags — included the usual bevy of city and county political candidates, as well as units from the Ohio Highway Patrol, Lorain County Sheriff’s Office, Lorain police, the Lorain High School Titan Marching Band and several International Festival princesses.
Rosalie Discenzo and Marina Melendez, two 17-year-old Puerto Rican International Princesses and Lorain High students, agreed the parade was a chance to observe their culture and ethnic background.
Discenzo, who had just watched a History Channel video in school about Cinco de Mayo, confessed she had mistakenly believed the day to be a celebration of Mexico’s independence.
“I didn’t really know what it was about, but now I do,” she said.
Another Puerto Rican Princess, one of seven in the parade, was Morgan Mendez, 17, a student at Marion L. Steele High School in Amherst.
“This is about being proud of your nationality and heritage,” Mendez said, and she noted the similarities between those of Puerto Rican and Mexicans descent.
Morgan and her mother, Melissa Chobody, both said the weather was made to order, but they noted that it was windy as the teenager put her hand on her head to try to salvage her carefully coiffed hair.
The day’s events took on a far weightier tone for Angel Arroyo, a Lorain activist who brought a group of people to take part in the parade to raise awareness for the need to oppose what he said are unjust efforts by the government to deport Mexicans in Lorain and across Northeast Ohio.
“We’re asking the Cleveland and Detroit offices of ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) to stop picking on those who are here in this country legitimately and trying to do the right thing, and instead use their resources to go after drug gangs and illegal terrorists,” Arroyo said.
Arroyo, who works with HOLA, a Northeast Ohio Latino advocacy group that works for immigrants and their families, cited the case of Esmeralda Montezuma, a Lorain area woman who recently won a 10-year immigration battle to remain in the U.S.
Maria Lenor, an Akron woman, talked about how she is waiting for her day in court in a case in which her husband was deported to Mexico after the couple purchased a home and began a landscaping business, which they subsequently lost due to immigration issues.
But for children, including Roddy and Holliday Payne, children of Tiashanna Hudak of Lorain, the parade held far simpler joys.
“What did you like about the parade?” Hudak asked her kids.
A quiet Roddy, 6, said he liked the cars that passed by but wanted to see more.
His sister, Holliday, 3, seemed to speak for youngsters all along the parade route, when she said “the candy,” referring to the handfuls of bubble gum, lollipops and candy bars tossed out by parade walkers.
Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or firstname.lastname@example.org.