April 26, 2004 — Sixty-seven piñatas, a live Mariachi band and traditional Mexican desserts will transform the University of Utah’s Presidents Circle into “Little Mexico” for a Cinco de Mayo fiesta. More than 1,700 third- and fourth-graders from Title I schools across the Salt Lake Valley will take part in the May 4 party, hosted by Kingsbury Hall, located at 1395 E. Presidents Circle, on the University campus, from 10:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. Before the fiesta, students will attend a free performance by Ballet Folklorico “Quetzalli” de Veracruz, a Hispanic dance company from Veracruz, Mexico. At 11:15 a.m. the students will enjoy their own sack lunches on the grassy area of Presidents Circle, followed by the festivities.
The outreach activity aims to enrich the lives of school children by giving them a better understanding of other cultures while allowing them to become familiar with the University. More than 30 schools from across the valley, many with large Latina/o populations, will bring their third- and fourth-grade classes to participate in the Cinco de Mayo activity. Lisa Wilson, outreach coordinator for Kingsbury Hall notes, “We try to host a similar activity each year. Last February, we organized a large group gathered at the Centro Civico Mexicano to learn how to salsa dance. This year, we’ve tried to introduce the younger population to theatre and to the University. We are glad we can continue to serve the community in this way.”
Each participating class was invited to learn more about Cinco de Mayo, the Spanish language, Veracruz, Mexico, Mexican art and legends as well as construct a class piñata in advance of the fiesta. Midvale Elementary, one of the participating schools, offers a dual language program and encourages students to speak English and Spanish by holding classes in both languages. Maria Requena, a first-grade teacher at Midvale Elementary, one of the participating schools, says, “When you have the experience of learning different cultures, different languages, you are a better person.”
Members of Ballet Folklorico “Quetzalli” de Veracruz have served as representatives for the Secretary of Tourism and Economic Development in the state of Veracruz, Mexico, since 1986. “Quetzalli” has performed for national and international audiences, recently performing in Peru, Spain, Germany, Taiwan and Canada. Each performance aims to take the audience on a tour of Mexico by incorporating unique dance styles from throughout Mexico. Through authentic, colorful costumes and live music the dancers pay tribute to regions in their native country.
The Cinco de Mayo event is sponsored by Kingsbury Hall, with contributions from University Neighborhood Partners, Wells Fargo, American Express, WESTAF, the National Endowment for the Arts, Utah Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Utah State Office of Hispanic Affairs, Consulado de Mexico, Univision, “Mundo Hispano,” La GranD Radio 102.3 FM and Glade’s Taffy Town.