Cinco de Mayo event honors bonds with Mexico

HARLINGEN — The city came together yesterday in a celebration of the cultural connections between the people of Harlingen and Mexico.

The annual Cinco de Mayo Celebration: Batalla de Puebla was held at Lt. George Gutierrez Park, or La Placita. The ceremonies at the park on West Harrison Avenue included several presentations, plus performances by mariachi groups, folkloric dancers and singers. The San Benito High School Flamenco Ensemble performed as did the Long Elementary Folkloric Dance Team.

Numerous dignitaries from Harlingen and Matamoros were present.

Mexican Consul Rodolfo Quilantan Arenas was presented with the keys to the city, which came in the form of a plaque.

It had a special meaning to him considering he will soon move to a new post in Little Rock, Ark., after serving in Brownsville for six years.

“This is a great way to keep the bonds between me and Harlingen,” he said.

The Cinco de Mayo celebration impressed him. He’s been attending the event each year and it keeps getting better.

“Every year it’s more organized, more performances of the singers,” he said.

In another presentation, Connie Salas seemed overwhelmed by the gratitude extended to her and her husband Juan yesterday afternoon.

“I can’t believe it,” said Salas, 80, who’d just received the keys to the city from Mayor Chris Boswell.

“All these years we’ve volunteered with so many wonderful people and never expected anything in return,” said Salas, who’d accepted the honor for both herself and her husband.

The recognition was for more than 16 years of local volunteer work.

Among the singers was Aaron Blount, 11, who belted out powerful renditions of “La Cigarra” and “Los Laureles.”

The Vela Middle School sixth grader has become a familiar face at various venues, including musicals, plays and outdoor concerts. Dressed in a smart black mariachi costume with gold embroidery yesterday afternoon, her voice had noticeably matured over the past two years. She delivered her performance with a new depth and volume, stretching out some notes so long the audience couldn’t help but respond with joyous whistles and “gritos.”

Afterwards she said performing before the crowd was a bit “nerve-wracking.”

“The most challenging one was the first one,” she said, referring to the way she had to draw out her voice a little longer in “La Cigarra.”

Her mother Monica Blount was ecstatic, as always.

“Every time I hear her sing, I am amazed,” she said.

The next performance was given by two children in “Los Viejitos” garb from the Mexican state of Michoacán. They performed traditional dances, moving about the gazebo with small wooden canes. They turned around, colorful ribbons dangling from straw hats, masks portraying wide-eyed, smiling expressions almost like caricatures.

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