For more than 30 years, Portland has hosted a Cinco de Mayo Fiesta that has become one of the largest multicultural celebrations in Oregon. The fiesta boasts three full days packed with festivities and culturally immersive programming at Tom McCall Waterfront Park. During the event, festivalgoers can experience the spirit of Mexico through music, arts, dance and sport.
The Cinco de Mayo Fiesta began in 1983, the same year that Guadalajara, Mexico, became one of Portland’s nine international sister cities. As a direct result, a strong sense of cultural exchange continues to drive the activities and nonprofit collaborations of the festival.
Cinco de Mayo entertainment
On opening day, school-aged children gather for the annual student assembly. A few hours later, a naturalization ceremony honors new American citizens as they take oath.Entertainment options abound for all ages and interests, including classic carnival rides, snacks, singing contests and lucha libre (Mexican wrestling).The plaza de niños provides a safe, kid-oriented zone with free face painting, arts and crafts, and a play area. In 2016, donations made at this site benefited Fundación Faro de Alejandría, a Guadalajara-based advocacy organization for individuals with autism.
Mexico’s rich musical history has birthed many genres and continues to cultivate new sounds. Accordingly, Portland’s Cinco de Mayo Fiesta organizers have continually and expertly curated acts to reflect this diversity. Big names like norteño music king Ramón Ayala and award-winning cumbia band Grupo Maravilla share the stage with local talent. Oregon performers include youth rock groups from Woodburn and Portland-based salsa dancers. In 2016, a skilled impersonator of late icon Juan Gabriel served as an entertaining reminder of the beloved singer. A bilingual, mariachi-backed Catholic mass ceremony is slated for the 2017 festival. Several traditional dance troupes perform Mexican folkloric dance (known as ballet folklorico) throughout the festival as well.
Cinco de Mayo activities and arts
The Cinco de Mayo Fiesta emphasizes wellness as well as entertainment. Past offerings have included free massages, chiropractic exams and CPR classes. Since 2013, the fiesta has showcased boxing, inviting female and male athletes from Oregon, Washington and Idaho to compete. Creatively inclined attendees can attend hands-on art workshops led by Mexican artists who make pottery and flute crafting accessible to all. When you’re ready to find the perfect tin milagro heart for your home, head to the fiesta’s artisan village. There, you will discover works by dozens of local and international artists and makers.
Cinco de Mayo food
Last but not least, it wouldn’t be a proper Mexican celebration without options for ample feasting! Several local food and beverage stands line the waterfront, serving up churros, fried bananas and dozens of other Mexican snacks and entrees. Beer and tequila drinks are also available for adults, and with many options for public transportation, you can feel free to safely indulge.