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Mexicantown business owners want people to have respectful Cinco de Mayo celebrations

Posted at 7:01 AM, May 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-05 07:01:27-04

(WXYZ) — Thursday marks Cinco de Mayo, the anniversary of Mexico's pivotal victory of France at the Battle of Puebla.

The annual celebration is marked with parties, drinking, dancing and more. But, people in Southwest Detroit say the history behind the unofficial holiday often gets lost in the mix, and many say the celebrations are both a blessing and a curse.

One restaurant manager said that similar to how everyone is Irish on St. Patrick's Day and Polish on Paczki Day, everyone is Mexican on Cinco de Mayo.

The manager likes to see people celebrate and enjoy what Mexicantown has to offer, but there is a level of decorum that's been lost over the years.

Juanita Gonzalez Franco, the owner of La Gloria's, said she's happy to have her regular customers back now that the health risk due to COVID-19 seems to be lower.

"It is nice to see people come in and get their little pastries and tamales," she said. "It's good for us."

She said this time of year brings back warm memories. In Southwest Detroit, Cinco de Mayo is the spring kicker, but the celebration isn't as wholesome as it once was.

"Now it just seems like people want to drink and have their fun, but it's loud and sometimes it gets messy, so it is different in that way," Gonzalez Franco said.

The annual Cinco de Mayo Parade is a way to honor the real meaning behind the holiday. Authentic costumes and food populated Mexicantown over the weekend.

The theme in 2022 was the legacy of Detroit's Latino cultural heritage, the strength of its people, and the promises of successful, thriving Latino businesses.

Raymond Lozano, who chairs the Mexican Patriotic Committee, said it's a fitting motif after a two-year battle with the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I lost a number of really close friends as did a lot of other people – family and friends, so we've gotten past that," he said. "You know, it hit the business community too."

While some restaurants couldn't weather the storm, others are still standing tall. Evie's Tamales has been in the area for four decades. Manager Jose Villanueva believes nothing can wipe out the Mexican influence in Southwest Detroit.

"It is evolving compared to 20 years ago," Villanueva said. "I believe Mexicantown is here to say."

Villanueva said to support the mom-and-pop shops, and enjoy some drinks, but be respectful. Also, remember that without Mexico's victory on May 5, the U.S. may not have become what it is today.

"That band of Mexicans held off the French army at that point and it is theorized had they been able to march forward that a couple of years later, they were going to link up with the southern Confederacy and it could have changed the tide of our own civil war," Lozano said.