In Queens, Authentic Cinco de Mayo

“I do believe Cinco de Mayo is a misrepresented holiday in the United States. People have a misconception of what the day is and why it should be celebrated,” said Corona resident Timothy Baerga, 22.

Video and photos by Paola Cisneros

Across New York City and the country, restaurants and bars have adopted Cinco de Mayo as a day to lure in customers with specials on margaritas and Mexican cuisine. In the Queens neighborhood of Corona, where many Mexican immigrants live, the holiday is marked on a more somber note.

On May 5, residents of Corona went about their usual business, walking to pick up their children from school and stopping to socialize in Corona Plaza, the neighborhood’s central gathering point next to the 103rd Street stop of the No. 7 subway line.

“It’s interesting to see how people have made it something to celebrate,” said Dulce Maria, 50, a hair stylist who has been living in Corona for about a decade. “Some people may go out to celebrate but it is not a holiday that must be celebrated, it’s more of an anniversary than a holiday.”

Cinco de Mayo marks the anniversary of the Mexican army’s victory against France at the Battle of Puebla in 1862, during the Franco-Mexican War. In Mexico, it is recognized as a regional holiday in the state of Puebla.

In interviews conducted around the Cinco de Mayo holiday, some residents of Corona expressed consternation over the commercialization of the holiday in the United States. Here are their views:

Of Corona’s 57,150 residents, nearly 60 percent are Hispanic, according to the U.S. Census American Community Survey of 2010-2014. Mexicans number 9,087, nearly 16 percent of the neighborhood’s population, the survey said.

Valeria Cisneros, 10, of Corona, has been singing in a mariachi band for two years. “We get to sing in a lot of events. This year we got to sing and play music for Cinco de Mayo, I think it’s a good way to celebrate.”

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