Another Cinco de Mayo celebration is in the books, and organizer Clara Beas Fitzgerald is calling it Hermiston’s most successful one yet.
“I think it went amazingly well,” she said.
Beas Fitzgerald said it is hard to know exactly how many people were in Butte Park over the two-day event, but it was definitely in the thousands — more than the city could have possibly fit into its former location along Second Street in front of City Hall.
The celebration’s parade and opening ceremonies on Saturday were graced by the presence of Francisco Maass Peña, Mexico’s consul general for Oregon. Saturday he donned the sash noting he was the parade’s grand marshal and climbed astride a horse for the short route down Elm Avenue.
Jose Garcia, chair of Hermiston’s Hispanic Advisory Committee, and Beas Fitzgerald walked beside Peña as he led the parade to Butte Park. Hermiston Mayor Dave Drotzmann, Umatilla County Sheriff Terry Rowan and county commissioners Bill Elfering and George Murdock also helped kick off the celebration.
Hermiston Hispanic Advisory Committee member Mark Gomolski sent an invitation a few months ago asking Peña to come. Peña, gracious and diplomatic, said accepting provided him the opportunity to build more bridges with the local community.
The consul general handles vital services for around 400,000 Mexicans, from providing official documents, including passports, birth certificates and identification, to offering legal advice. The consulate’s headquarters are in Portland, but the service area spans most of Oregon and three counties in southwest Washington (Oregon’s most eastern counties fall under the Consulate of Mexico in Boise).
“As you can imagine, there’s a lot of work,” Pena said.
He talked up the office’s “mobile consulate,” which he said takes services right to migrant labor camps and rural parts of the state. And he said he is working toward increasing tourism between Oregon and Mexico.
Peña took the main stage at Butte Park and delivered a short dedication in Spanish. After the events, he addressed the effects of the anti-immigrant climate in the U.S. on the consulate’s work. He said there may be a culture of preparation emerging.
“I think this is an excellent moment for people to have their Mexican papers in order,” he said, and to seek the consulate for help with “immigration diagnostics.”
“I’m sure there are a lot of people with real possibilities for immigration, but they don’t know it,” Peña said, and the consulate can help them explore those options.
Garcia of the advisory committee said the consulate’s services are invaluable to the area’s Hispanic population. The office really serves as a “consultant” to the Mexican community, he said, even working with families in distress when loved ones face deportation.
The rest of the weekend celebration was more informal, with carnival rides, bands, dancers and food vendors ongoing in the park.
Saturday night included fireworks, which caused some confusion when they went off before 9 p.m. despite a notice on the city’s website that they would begin at 9:30 p.m. Beas Fitzgerald said that the fireworks were started as soon as the sun was setting to out of respect for neighbors with homes around the butte who might have been affected by the noise.
Cinco de Mayo princesses Natali Armenta, Daisy Cardenas and Jaleslie Torres helped represent Hermiston’s Latino youth at the celebration after winning a Facebook contest for the title. The three Hermiston High School students posted videos about themselves online and gathered the most likes out of all the contestants.
Armenta is a junior and said being a member of the high school’s Key Club has helped her “grow tremendously” as a person. She hopes to be able to create her own line of beauty products and start a business to market them someday, and also plans to create her own YouTube channel this summer.
Cardenas is a senior involved in FCCLA (short for Family, Career and Community Leaders of America). She said she plans to become a dentist or an entrepreneur.
Torres is 17 and plans to pursue a career in either modeling or nursing after she finishes school.