Cinco de Mayo – not as much partying in Mexico as here|[05/05/07]

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 5, 2007

Before moving to Vicksburg from Mexico, the Torres family didn’t really celebrate Cinco de Mayo.

The tequila, traditional food, music and time with family and friends that are often part of today’s festivities are simply a highlight in history for them.

&#8220It’s an important date, but nothing more,” said Maria de Lourdes Torres, who moved here with her husband, Javier Torres, and their two children, 17-year-old Alejandra and 4-year-old Javier, in June.

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But here in the United States, Cinco de Mayo is the battle cry for a Mexican fiesta. And most all – not just Mexicans – join in the fun.

The Torreses were actually surprised to hear that today, the fifth of May, is a day in which people come together over some of the traditions they celebrated back home – just on a different day.

While Cinco de Mayo is the anniversary of an important battle in Mexico’s history, when the country triumphed over the French army, Sept. 15 is the day – every year – when communities in their homeland get together to celebrate Mexican Independence.

&#8220We have a big festival in Mexico and celebrate for a few days,” Alejandra Torres said.

Mexico’s Independence Day is much like that of the Fourth of July, but instead of hot dogs and hamburgers, families serve up enchiladas and tacos and listen to the sound of mariachis.

But, holding strong to their Mexican roots and wanting to embrace the culture here, the Torreses are interested in the idea of celebrating the holiday, Maria said.

&#8220It’s our first year and we didn’t know how important it was,” she said. &#8220We are used to celebrating in September. We’ll probably go eat at El Sombrero or something.”

For Alejandra Torres, recognizing Cinco de Mayo is as important as learning to speak English, on which she has been working since becoming a student at Vicksburg High School this fall.

&#8220We will celebrate because we realize it’s an important holiday for Mexicans in the United States,” she said.

Since the Torres family, who moved from Cotija de la Paz, Michocan, just south of Mexico City, has not had much time to become acquainted with other Mexican families, they have not been able to learn about the kinds of traditions celebrated here.

For Mexican Independence Day, they went to the restaurant Sol Azteca to celebrate. It was their first time to spend the holiday away from home.

&#8220It was different,” Maria Torres said. &#8220We try to maintain pride from our roots and cultivate our culture.”

But they’re absorbing some Vicksburg culture, too.

&#8220You have to be part of the country where you live, but also hold on to your traditions,” Alejandra Torres said.

The Torreses are a small part of an ever-growing Hispanic population in Vicksburg. Estimates on exactly how many Hispanic people live in Vicksburg have ranged from 500 to 5,000 in the past year by U.S. Census data, as well as professionals throughout the community. Because of job changes, living conditions and lack of citizenship, an accurate number is almost impossible to calculate.