Austin marks Cinco de Mayo

Published 9:31 am Friday, May 6, 2011

Aaron Duenes and Maria Sanchez along with Cindy Hernandez and Noe Garcia, towards the front, demonstrate Latin-style dancing as part of a Cinco de Mayo celebration at Austin High School Thursday. They, along with other students, also demonstrated traditional Mexican dances as well. -- Eric Johnson/

Austin High School students watched as poised dancers took the stage at Christgau Hall Thursday morning. The dancers, decked in dress shirts and pants for the boys and long, vibrant, colorful skirts for the girls, began circling each other, making small steps and swaying to the sound of horns, guitar strumming and maracas.

These performers showcased traditional Mexican dances while across the hall, a battle was going on. The air was thick with small wool balls and soft cloth frisbees as Spanish and French students “reenacted” the Battle of Puebla. It was all part of AHS’s biannual celebration of Cinco de Mayo.

Spanish II students at Austin High School lob yarn balls at each other in an attempt to get as many of the balls on to the opposing side that they can. The exercise attempted to illustrate the Mexican win over the French army at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862 and was part of an overall celebration of Cinco de Mayo at the school Thursday. - Eric Johnson/

“(The students) love learning about culture,” said Yenny Ahumada, a Spanish teacher at AHS.

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The AHS World Language department wanted to find a way to make Cinco de Mayo fun. The holiday, celebrating the Mexican army’s unlikely win over the French in 1862, is celebrated throughout the U.S. and in some regions in Mexico, but many don’t know what Cinco de Mayo means aside from partying and celebrations.

That changed two years ago, as AHS teachers wanted to highlight Mexican and French tradition. They didn’t want to celebrate every year however, as most students take a language for two years as a requirement. Mexican-American students take great pride in showcasing their culture.

“This is very special,” said Elpidio Orozco, AHS junior. Orozco, with nine other dancers, showed off the Jarabe Tapatio, the Bachata, and the Cumbia Mexicana.

“It’s fun showing (others) our tradition,” said Cindy Hernandez, another dancer. “But we’re learning too,”

The dancers had about a month to memorize the steps to each dance, some of which they hadn’t ever seen before. Other language students were glad to see the dancing, as well as experience a little history without reading a textbook.

“I thought it was fun,” said Hayley Newman, AHS sophomore. “It wasn’t like a normal day.”