Cinco de Mayo celebration brings community together

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To Laura Duarte, the melodic sounds of mariachi music and the smells of homemade tamales took her somewhere she hasn't been in more than a decade: home.

"This music, this mariachi music, makes me miss home. It makes me want to go back (to Mexico) and spend a vacation," Duarte said.

Duarte was one of about 350 people who attended Saturday's Cinco de Mayo celebration at the Moffat County Fairgrounds in Craig.

During a game, Duarte twice took the opportunity to sing traditional Mexican songs to the crowd with the mariachi band Voz de mi Tierra, or Voice of my Land, to win prizes.

"I think it's important they have this event, because Mexican and American people get to know each other's cultures," she said.

Alvaro Landa of Comunidad Int--egrada, the local nonprofit organization that organized the celebration, said the point of Saturday's second annual Cinco de Mayo event was to bridge the gap between two cultures.

"It's very important to us that we unite these communities," he said. "We are part of the community also, and it's important to ex----pose our culture to other people."Com--unidad Integrada works in Moffat and Routt counties to bring cultural events to the community and promote successful integration.

Saturday's event combined mariachi music, traditional Mexican folkloric dancers from Moffat County High School, food vendors, piñatas, children's and adult games, prize drawing and a silent auction.

The event was very successful, Landa said.

"On a scale of one to 10, we were at a 10.2," he said. "I like seeing everyone come out and have fun."

Craig resident Lucille Theis said she attended last year's Cinco de Mayo celebration, as well as Saturday's because of the food and the music.

"I love Mexican music. The food was delicious. I really enjoyed myself," she said.

Bringing the two communities together for a cultural event is important to Craig, Theis said.

"I think the mixture of people out here celebrating is really important," she said. "I hope it keeps growing, really I do."

Two of the high school dance groups said they were honored to take part in the Cinco de Mayo celebration because they take pride in their culture and are glad to share it with others.

"To me, it's really important to try and show my heritage to show this community that we can do this stuff here, too," 15-year-old Karen Torres said.

Fellow dancer Lupita Val--encia, 14, said she was encouraged that so many non-Mexican Craig residents attended the celebration.

"It's really good they get to know new stuff and try the authentic Mexican food, more than they already know," she said.

The girls were dressed in colorful dresses from Mexico's Jalisco region. The dancers explained that the ribbons on their dresses made a star when they spun around and twirled their skirts.

Valencia said she hopes the dance group -- which began practicing about a month ago -- will start performing at area restaurants and social events.

"But for right now, it was all about having fun," she said.

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