By Karl Terry: PNT Managing Editor
Wind-blown and slightly clouded by controversy, Cinco de Mayo festivities at Lindsey Park in Portales were enjoyed by hundreds Saturday.
“It started out kind of slow, but here in the afternoon it is picking up,” Los Abuelitos Senior Center director Lupe Montoya said, from her booth where she and other volunteers were promoting the center as well as La Casa Health Center.
“We’re trying to recruit seniors to come to our center,” Montoya said. “Let them know what we have.”
At a nearby food booth, Marta Espinoza patted out corn dough by hand to make gorditas. Volunteers with Espinoza’s church, Iglesia Bautista, were selling the meat- and cheese-filled pockets as fast as they could turn them out.
Jesus Espinoza, the church’s pastor, said the group was selling gorditas and other food items to raise money for the church’s Vacation Bible School.
“It’s been busy,” Jesus Espinoza said. “This is good for the community. The idea is for the community to meet and get to know each other.”
Jacob Martinez, 12, was enjoying the fare from the food booth nearby with his mouth full.
“The best thing I’ve eaten today is this (Frito pie),” Jacob said between bites.
The day also included games and entertainment of all sorts. For the children there were piñatas filled with candy to break open. A cakewalk attracted young and old alike, while DJ music filled the air. Various cultural dancers and a live band rounded out the day.
Organizer Jennifer Ornelas, Portales Cultural Affairs Committee president, said things were going well, but the crowd turnout was a little disappointing. She said hate mail and insensitive postings may have been to blame.
She said earlier in the week someone anonymously mailed out cards with statements derogatory toward Mexican immigrants. Someone posted the cards over posters advertising the Cinco de Mayo event. Ornelas said she also got two anonymous phone calls taunting her about the event.
Ornelas said she believes many people stayed away from the activities because the cards instilled fear that there would be a roundup of illegal immigrants at the event.
“I was raised without hate and I instilled that in my kids,” Ornelas said. “It’s too bad that other people aren’t that way.”
Asked if the incident just pointed up the need for the Cultural Affairs Committee and its work, Ornelas said it did.
“We do good on everything we do,” she said. “It’s multicultural and we’re not picky about what we do. We’ll just keep working.”