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Cinco de Mayo fiestas around the South Bay will accent ethnic harmony.

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On the original Cinco de Mayo 129 years ago, outnumbered and poorly armed Mexican peasants defeated thousands of French troops thought to be invincible. The Battle of Puebla--on May 5, 1862--was an early salvo in a campaign to end French domination of Mexico, which took five years to accomplish.

On Cinco de Mayo, 1991, in the South Bay, the order of the day won’t be fighting but celebrating with games, ethnic foods, mariachi music and regional Mexican dances performed by folkloric groups.

“The current celebration is like a big party, but it’s a party with pride in it,” said Gabriel Duran, director of Carson Park, which hosts its 17th annual Cinco de Mayo observance on Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. The park is at 21411 S. Orrick Ave.

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Duran said the holiday gives Mexican-Americans a chance “to showcase themselves” and recall a time when the underdog won. It’s a symbol that the underdog can always win “if he has his heart in it,” Duran said.

But if Cinco de Mayo is a Mexican-American holiday, Carson will celebrate it in an international way, with food reflecting the ethnic diversity of the city’s residents. Along with Mexican food there will be Hawaiian shaved ice, egg rolls, teriyaki sticks, Thai delicacies, corn on the cob and the all-American hamburgers and hot dogs.

“This celebration is not just the Mexican community participating but a lot of different ethnic groups,” Duran said, noting that Carson residents also include Filipinos, Samoans and African-Americans. “It can bring a little harmony for a day to all the ethnic groups.”

A combination of traditional Mexican music and Top 40 hits will be performed by several local bands and singers, with two stages offering continuous entertainment.

Dances of several Mexican states, as well as some reflecting the Aztec culture, will be performed by the Xochitlan Folklorico Dancers, whose members include elementary children and working adults.

Booths dotting the park will offer crafts and games, and there also will be a youth soccer tournament, amateur boxing exhibitions and a petting zoo for children.

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In Gardena, the city and several civic organizations will join forces to stage the fifth annual Cinco de Mayo parade on Saturday at 11 a.m. For the first time this year, the observance will include a street fair featuring food and game booths, Mexican music and dancing and a classic car show.

With more than 60 units, the parade will start at Recreation Park, at 158th Street and Normandie Avenue, travel south on Normandie to Gardena Boulevard, and then turn east to New Hampshire Avenue.

Music and dancing with a Mexican flavor will enliven the parade, along with 15 bands and drill teams, an ROTC unit and members of the El Toga Shrine Club riding minibikes decorated to look like camels.

The street fair will take place from noon to 4 p.m. on Gardena Boulevard between Berendo and Vermont avenues.

There also will be a Cinco de Mayo first in Lawndale, when the city stages its initial celebration Sunday from noon to 6 p.m. at Rogers/Anderson Park, 4161 Manhattan Beach Blvd. The emphasis will be on entertainment, with 30 musicians, singers and dancers slated to perform. There also will be food and games.

The celebration is being started to reflect Lawndale’s growing Latino population, according to Ludwig Schilling, a member of the city Parks and Recreation Commission, which is sponsoring the event.

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“The number of Mexican-Americans has increased, so we thought this event was a good idea,” he said. Added Sal Preciado, its Cinco de Mayo chairman: “We hope this will get all of the people around the community together and build friendships.”

Two Los Angeles city recreation centers in the South Bay will hold Cinco de Mayo celebrations featuring folkloric music, dancing, sports and food.

The Wilmington Recreation Center, 325 Neptune Ave., will observe the holiday on Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. Cinco de Mayo will be celebrated Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at Normandale Recreation Center, 22400 S. Halldale Ave., near Torrance. A special attraction will be pinatas for children.

In other Cinco de Mayo observances:

* The Manhattan Beach Recreation Department will hold a fiesta for adults 55 and over on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Joslyn Community Center, 1601 Valley Drive. Tickets are $3 and include food, door prizes and entertainment.

* A Cinco de Mayo Fiesta will take place on Saturday from 6 p.m. to midnight at the VFW’s Gen. William Stark Rosecrans Post 3261, 1822 W. 162nd St. The evening includes dinner and dancing, with a $12.50 donation requested.

* A benefit for Loreto, Mexico, the sister city of Hermosa Beach, will be given by the Kiwanis Club on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. at the Kiwanis clubhouse, 2525 Valley Drive. There will be Mexican food and entertainment by mariachis and dancers. A $15 donation is requested, and reservations may be made by calling Joe Diaz, at 379-1421 or 372-0466.

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* A fund-raising fiesta will take place Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at St. John Chrysostom Church, 546 E. Florence Ave., Inglewood. Games, food and a raffle are among the attractions.

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