Reporting Bob Roberts
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CHICAGO (WBBM) – “Cinco de Mayo” celebrates one of the most important military battles in Mexican history, and it is being marked this weekend with a celebration at 26th Street and Kostner Avenue in the West Side Little Village neighborhood.
Not everyone aboard the carnival rides, eating food ranging from tacos to Polish sausage, and being entertained by musical acts from both the west side and as far away as Mexico City, knows the history behind the celebration.
Forces loyal to Mexican President Benito Juarez turned back a better-equipped French army twice its size in Puebla on May 5th, 1862. Some historians argue that it helped turn the tide of the American Civil War, because it prevented the French from resupplying the Confederacy, which French Emperor Napoleon III backed.
Some mistake Cinco de Mayo for Mexico’s Independence Day. That is celebrated each year on Sept. 16.
Yolanda Zepeda received a history lesson as she sat at the carnival from her uncle Joe Zepeda, a lifelong resident of 26th Street. She said they both hope for a bright future for Chicago’s Hispanic community.
“We want to see it build up,” she said. “(We want it) more clean and more proper, things like that. Better education, of course.”
Others, such as Susan Davidson, were unaware of the sesquicentennial but were equally eager to have a good time.
“Food and rides for the kids, but I don’t know if we’ll stay long enough for the music,” she said. “They can wear you out pretty fast.”
The Little Village Chamber of Commerce is sponsoring the carnival, which runs until 11 p.m. Saturday and 2-11 p.m. Sunday. Proceeds go toward scholarships for students in the community.