by Carla Bream
Cinco de Mayo (fifth of May) is usually referred to as the Mexican Independence Day, but it actually isn’t. On May 5, 1862, 4,000 Mexicans defeated over 8,000 French invaders in the battle known as La Batalla de Puebla, or the Battle of Puebla. In reality, Mexico’s independence was short lived, as the French returned a year later and set up their government. But to Mexicans everywhere, that brief victory is a day of celebration and pride.
Roanoke joined in the Hispanic celebration with the Wildwood Civic League when they had a cook-out and games at Thrasher Park on Thursday. Sponsored by the Roanoke City Police Department, the officers gave of their time to cook flank steaks, organize the basketball and soccer games and entertain the children.
The officer’s brought a star shaped pinata and gave away coloring books and stick-on police badges. A local fire department brought a fire truck and gave the kids tours of the truck and equipment and gave away red plastic fire chief hats. McGruff the Crime Dog paid a visit as well.
The event was free to all, explained Lt. T. L. Akins of the Roanoke City Police Department. “Donations funded this entire event. We are cooking authentic Mexican dishes for everybody,” said Akins. “Last fall we did something similar and had over 300 people attend and it was a huge success. We do this as part of our Outreach program to help break down the cultural barriers. We had so many calls and positive feedback from that event, we decided to do one this spring. This is our largest Outreach event in the area.”
Pastor Calhoun of the La Mision Hispana church solicited donations for this event as well. He was able to take the money and purchase two soccer goals which are now permanent fixtures at the park, available for use by all.