Locals celebrate community, heritage

........................................................................................................................................................................................

Every year New Mexicans celebrate Cinco de Mayo with family, friends, food, fun and music in order to commemorate the Mexican Army’s victory over France at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. This yearly celebration has long been considered a symbol of Mexican pride, heritage and freedom, and this year Socorro residents get to celebrate it in a way they never have before — with a parade.

At 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 5 the City of Socorro Tourism Department will host a community parade in honor of Cinco de Mayo for the first time, and so far interest from local residents seems to be high. According to Tourism Director Jennifer Gonzales, there should be upwards of 20 floats participating in the parade. “I know of at least one float they’ve been working on for two months,” she said.

The city decided to hold the parade this year because Cinco de Mayo conveniently falls on a Saturday, and Gonzales believes that the added fanfare will be a positive for the public.

“Community is an important thing,” she said. “You have to feel included, and stuff like this brings people together.”

Also bringing people together will be a Cinco de Mayo rodeo and a celebration on the historic Plaza.

The rodeo, which will be held at the Socorro County Fairgrounds from 1 to 4 p.m., will feature more than 10 events and showcase a wealth of young local rodeo talent.

“I would say we’ll have 30 to 40 local youth competitors and probably some kids from Magdalena,” said Laura Haines, who sits on the Board of Directors for the New Mexico Rodeo Association.

Haines, a Lemitar resident, has been a large part of the driving force that helped land the rodeo in Socorro for the past couple of years.

“I believe we’ve got a very youth-oriented community. And more and more kids need an avenue to get involved, and rodeo is a part of it,” she said.

The NMRA is making such a large effort to attract more young people to the sport that it’s including events in this weekend’s rodeo that aren’t normally a part of NMRA sanctioned events, like mutton busting.

“The mutton busting and the mini bull riding, that’s a crowd pleaser,” Haines said.

Mutton busting is a popular event in which children attempt to ride or race sheep, but it’s not an event that NMRA rodeos usually feature.

“We’ve got a great board of directors and we’re really just trying to promote the sport and get the kids and the community involved,” Haines said.

If community involvement is the underlying theme of Cinco de Mayo this year, Socorro can definitely give itself a giant, glistening gold star. So far, close to 20 local businesses and organizations have shown their generosity by agreeing to sponsor the rodeo, and inmates at the Socorro County Detention Center spent around four hours last week clearing the bleachers and arena floor of weeds and debris.

“This city has been fantastic to work with,” Haines said. “For being such a small community we have some of the most generous sponsors. If there are youth involved in any way people are willing to whip out their checkbook and say, ‘What do you need?’”

To wrap up the day’s festivities, the Plaza will play host to a Cinco de Mayo celebration that will also feature a wide variety of local entertainment. Five food vendors will be on hand to feed hungry attendees, there will be 20 arts and crafts booths set up and three local bands will provide entertainment. Mariachi Socorro will play at 3 p.m., Vanessa Aragon is slated to sing at 4:30 p.m. and Socorro’s own variety band, Remedy, will take the stage at 6 p.m.

All in all, the entire day’s schedule of events should allow for the people of Socorro to celebrate Cinco de Mayo in style and alongside friends and family.

“Maybe you’ll see people you haven’t seen in a while, or maybe people from out of town,” Gonzales said. “This is an opportunity to do that. You get to listen to music, eat good food, buy stuff and just enjoy yourself. It doesn’t get any better than that.”