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Food vendor at Cinco de Mayo celebration, Civic Center Park, Denver

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Cinco de Mayo
A Local Legacy

Did you know that Colorado used to be owned by Spain? In the early 1700s the area that is now Colorado was claimed by Spain, and eventually France controlled most of it. Later, in 1803, the Eastern part of Colorado became part of the Louisiana Purchase (a deal between France and the U.S.), with the rest remaining in Spanish, and later, Mexican, control until 1848.

In Denver, Colorado, and many other cities, people of Hispanic and Mexican descent have a Cinco de Mayo festival with storytelling, parades, food, and dancing to the beat of salsa and mariachi music. Cinco de Mayo is Spanish for the Fifth of May. On this day in 1862 Mexican peasants won a battle against French invaders in Puebla, Mexico. Many people mistake Cinco de Mayo for Mexican Independence Day, but that happened on September 16, 1810 -- more than 50 years earlier.

This Hispanic celebration began in Denver in 1987 as a small neighborhood street festival. By 1996 the weekend event had become so large -- attracting a half-million festival-goers -- that it moved to its new home in Denver's Civic Center Park. Does your city have a Cinco de Mayo celebration? The next time you have the opportunity, go and help celebrate!

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