BENTON PARK – Cinco de Mayo and the festival surrounding it is something business owners in the Cherokee Street district look forward to every year. It is the the largest annual event in the always bustling spot, and as always, food, entertainment, margaritas and more drew in thousands of revelers.
With skies clear for the first time in days, there was added incentive to come out as Cherokee Street came alive with activity on Saturday.
From Nebraska to Texas Streets, the blocks filled with people eager to partake in the festivities. Live music featuring dozens of bands, of various eclectic styles, could be found at three different stages throughout the festival. People gathered around each stage to listen or ambled throughout the rest of the event, which also boasted a wrestling match, an oversized chess game and a People’s Joy Parade at exactly 1:11 in the afternoon.
Of course, one of the biggest draws of the day was the food. Though restaurants along Cherokee were still open – and booming with business! – the food trucks and stands along the road offered a myriad of dishes for customers to purchase: from handmade tamales to gyros to cotton candy and funnel cake.
Other attractions included henna tattoos, face painting and the chance to have one’s fortune read, the latter of which, of course, was hosted by Fortune Teller’s Bar.
For several years, there has been some question about the celebration of Cinco de Mayo, with some critics claiming that the holiday encourages appropriation of Mexican culture. There is also often confusion about the holiday, which many falsely believe celebrates Mexico’s Independence Day.
In actuality, Cinco de Mayo is a celebration of Mexico’s victory in the Battle of Puebla in 1862, when the smaller Mexican army defeated the sizable French army. Today, Cinco de Mayo is more widely celebrated in the United States than in Mexico.
Cherokee Street in St. Louis has been a hub for Mexican and other Latino businesses since the 1980s. Walking down the street today, one will pass Mexican restaurants, groceries and other shops, and the Cherokee Street Festival is the largest Cinco de Mayo celebration in St. Louis
Some, like Cherokee Street Festival volunteer Jim Tomaszewski, thought Saturday’s event was a great way to showcase the neighborhood and St. Louis as a whole, pointing particularly to the different kinds of food available at the festival.
“The neat part is just seeing the diversity in the neighborhood we didn’t even know was there,” said Tomaszewski, who very recently moved to St. Louis from Bellville, Illinois. He added that he appreciated the opportunity the festival provided to move outside his usual comfort zone.
The Cherokee Street Festival happens once a year in honor of Cinco de Mayo. To learn more about Cinco de Mayo itself, visit https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/cinco-de-mayo. To stay up-to-date on Cherokee Street happenings, visit https://www.facebook.com/cherokeeStreetUSA/.