Cinco de Mayo to be celebrated on the mall

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Local,DC,Kate Jacobson

A local dance company is hosting its annual Cinco de Mayo festival on the mall, hoping to educate and entertain people with Latino cultures and traditions.

The Maru Montero Dance Company has hosted the festival since 1992, starting out in community centers and schools around the region. The festival now takes place on the National Mall, where thousands are expected to gather to experience traditional Mexican food and dance.

Maru Montero, the company's owner, said the festival was designed to be a family-friendly event that featured music and dance to celebrate and educate attendees on Latino culture. Last year, about 15,000 people attended and she expects about the same to come this year.

"There are not many festivals like this," she said. "We make [people] feel accepted and make them proud of who they are."

The main stage at the event will feature live performances by members of the Maru Montero Dance Company and will include live music. Attendees will also be able to taste some authentic Latin American cuisine and purchase Mexican food at a mercado.

There will also be a space for children to do traditional arts and crafts focusing on Latino culture.

Historically, Cinco de Mayo is a holiday to signify and commemorate the Mexican Army's victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. Though the holiday is inherently important to Mexicans, Montero -- who is a native of Mexico -- said she believes it should be a chance to celebrate all Latino culture.

To put on the festival, the company received donations and grants from various community groups and organizations. The D.C. Commission of the Arts and Humanities provided a grant to the festival and has been a frequent supporter of the dance company.

"Because of the diverse and international artistic experiences here in the District of Columbia, this city has become one of the cultural capitals of the world," said Lionell Thomas, executive director of the commission.

Other supporters include the D.C. Mayor's Office of Latino Affairs, who gave the company a grant to help educate others on Latino culture.

"The event is a great platform for children and others involved in these programs to show off their dance and to show off their pride in their culture," said Josue Salmaron, grants program manager with the Office of Latino Affairs. "They're bringing the cultural awareness piece to it."

Montero said she hopes the festival, which kicks off at noon, will draw people in from all walks of life to enjoy the music and to learn something new about Latino culture.

"It's about having a great time and relaxing with your families," she said. "And learn as much as you can -- everything is culturally relevant."

kjacobson@washingtonexaminer.com

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Author:

Kate Jacobson

Montgomery County reporter
The Washington Examiner