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8,000 Celebrate Cinco de Mayo at Oxnard Fiesta : Party: Weekend events marking the Mexican holiday draw multi-ethnic crowds throughout the county.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Thousands of Ventura County residents rejoiced in their Mexican heritage Saturday at Cinco de Mayo celebrations that also drew plenty of non-Latinos.

“This is a celebration that all of us would like to participate and take part in, not only Mexicans,” Oxnard Mayor Nao Takasugi said.

Takasugi was one of about 10 politicians who showed up to woo Latino constituents and share in the festivities at Oxnard’s two-day celebration of the 128th anniversary of Mexico’s victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla.

Families, some dressed in the red, white and green of Mexico’s flag, strolled along a three-block stretch of B Street near Plaza Park as others took advantage of the 80-degree heat to take a siesta on the grassy square. “It brings back memories of my childhood in Durango, Mexico,” said Oxnard resident Miguel Reynoso, 65.

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About 8,000 people attended the Oxnard fiesta, said Sgt. Chuck Hookstra of the Oxnard Police Department.

The festivities were shared around the county wherever Latinos make up a significant portion of the community. In Moorpark, children played games and shattered a pinata, and the city’s first Miss Cinco de Mayo was crowned at an evening dance.

But it was Oxnard, where 68% of the residents are Latino, that drew the largest crowds. About 30% of the county’s residents are from Latin America, said Robert Sanchez, president of the Mexican American Chamber of Commerce, which sponsored the Oxnard festivities.

Under the dual flags of the United States and Mexico, a binational and bipartisan group of local, state and federal officials took to the stage in Oxnard, some giving speeches in Spanish with heavy American accents.

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Bienvenidos ,” Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-Simi Valley) said to the crowd. “As a young man growing up in East L.A., I really know how to party because of Cinco de Mayo.”

Mexico was not without its own representatives. Zoila Arroyo de Rodriguez, consul at the Mexican consulate in Oxnard, detailed the historical significance of the battle that is marked in Cinco de Mayo celebrations, noting the expulsion not only of French forces but later of Spanish and British forces from Mexico.

For some, such as Reynoso, the fiesta began with a leisurely walk and a chat with friends on the park bench. As he pulled an ancient cowboy hat over his nose to watch a giant Ferris wheel turn over his head, Reynoso remarked, “Today, this place looks a lot like Mexicali” in Baja California.

A day that is synonymous with long speeches, mariachi bands and folklorico dancers was also a chance to feast for fiesta-goers in Oxnard.

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The multicultural character of Oxnard’s population was seen in the ethnic food sold at the booths lining Plaza Park. Looking a bit out of place, two booths did brisk business selling egg rolls and chow mein.

For some of the Mexican cooks, the work to plan the fiesta began long before the first taco was eaten Saturday.

“We started with the tamale meat on Wednesday, and then we started wrapping Thursday,” said Linda Herrera, 29, of Oxnard as she doled out some of the more than 120 tamales she had made.

Some at the fiesta wrinkled their noses at the thought of eating octopus cocktails and drinking “jamaica,” a reddish punch made out of hibiscus flowers.

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“I guess a lot of people don’t know what it is, but the ones that do, they look for it,” said Teresa Villa of Port Hueneme. “They enjoy it.”

The fiesta continues today until 10 p.m.


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