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Emilio kicks off GCI’s Cinco de Mayo fiesta

To commemorate the Battle of Puebla, Mexican-Americans celebrate with parades, festivals, music, food and dancing.

Guadalupe Centers, Inc. (GCI) will be celebrating its 24th annual Cinco de Mayo Fiesta beginning Friday, May 1st, through Sunday, May 3rd, 2015 at GCI’s landmark center located at 1015 Avenida Cesar E. Chavez, KCMO.

The annual Cinco de Mayo fiesta is the biggest festival in the Westside neighborhood. It is the only Fiesta that GCI does and it is their only fundraiser. The cost to attend Friday night’s concert is $7 a person. GCI’s CEO Cris Medina hopes that people will attend and support the center by purchasing food and drink.

“We want to make it affordable for people who want to come,” said Medina.

The fiesta started in the Westside community in 1922, making it the original Cinco de Mayo Fiesta in Kansas City. It is expected to attract over 10,000 people for the three-day festivities which includes a 5K Run/Walk,1k walk and a Kids fun run.

GCI has filled its celebration with a stellar line up of entertainment Tejano artist and Grammy Award Winner Emilio Navaira and is the feature act for the Friday evening celebration. He is one of a few artists that have been successful in keeping Tejano music alive in both the United States and Mexico. Opening for Emilio will be Las Estrellas, a Kansas City favorite.

“Last year we had Little Joe and we wanted to build on that from last year. We are taking the fiesta to the next level by hosting Emilio, a Tejano star and legend in Tejano music,” said Cris Medina, GCI CEO.

Navaira is excited to perform for Cinco de Mayo.

“I am glad to keep singing. I had that accident (bus tour crash) about five years ago and I didn’t know if I would be singing again. I thank God and all those who prayed for me,” he said.

He began working again about two years ago and has produced a new album.

“I have been playing a lot in Mexico. I also have been singing with a lot of different groups. I have a new album coming out soon, it is called Juntos,” he said.

His family is on the road with him and he is happy that his son, who had performed on The Voice, is traveling with him and in his band.

“Everything is good. My brothers and my sons are on the road with me. They are doing a good job and we are looking forward to coming to Kansas City, “ said Navaira.

Saturday’s schedule includes the running events followed by free admission to the festival grounds for a day of food family activities art and music by local performers.

Sunday’s schedule kicks off with a Mariachi Mass at noon. The mass is open to the public and will take place at Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine located at 907 Avenida Cesar E. Chavez, KCMO. A ceremony will recognize “Sala de Honor” honorees for their volunteer work and performances at past fiestas.

The fiesta picks up with performers Calle Seis featuring Grammy award winner Hugo Guerrero “Charanga King” formerly with Fandango USA. Grammy award winner Wild Bill Perkins and Jorge Alejandro and Nikki Lopez will close the festivities.

Cinco de Mayo is a national holiday in Mexico in honor of a military victory in 1862 over the French Forces of Napoleon III. In 1861 Mexico declared a temporary moratorium on the repayment of foreign debts. English, Spanish and French troops invaded the country.

By April 1862 the English and Spanish troops had withdrawn, but the French, with the support of wealthy landowners remained in an attempt to establish a monarchy under Maximilian of Austria and to curb U.S. power in North America.

On May 5, 1862 a poorly equipped mestizo and Zapotec force under the command of General Ignacio Zaragoza defeated French troops at the Battle of Puebla. The fighting continued for five years before the French were driven out, but the Puebla victory became a symbol of Mexican resistance to foreign domination.

Over the decades, Cinco de Mayo has become a festive holiday in the United States. Celebrations in many cities extend beyond the actual day to encompass a weekend or an entire week that consists of parades and festivals filled with music, dancing and food.