The Amigos Club sold boiled corn with cream and horchata at the Cinco de Mayo celebration held at the Moab Valley Multicultural Center on Sunday, May 5. Proceeds from the sale will pay for students to tour college campuses in Utah. From left to right: Lupita Ponce, Fernando Gomez, Alexandra Gomez, David Cuitlahuac and Landon McEllhiney. [Kristin Millis/ Moab Sun News]

Cinco de Mayo was celebrated at the Moab Valley Multicultural Center on Sunday, May 5.

The holiday is observed to commemorate the Mexican army’s victory over French forces in the Battle of Puebla in 1862. It is not Mexico’s Independence day, which is celebrate Sept. 16.

Leticia Bentley, outreach coordinator for the MVMC, said that the center has been inviting the community to celebrate on May 5 for the last seven years. Before that Cinco de Mayo festivities were held at the high school.

“My whole family celebrates Cinco de Mayo in Mexico with traditional food and music, just like we are,” she said.

Celebrants were able to enjoy posole, corn on the cob served with cream, and tostadas. Navajo tacos and fry bread were also available.

Teresa Ferro said that she enjoyed the food.

“My mom is Latina,” she said. “I was happy to have the food and not have to cook it.”

The Amigos Club sold corn on the cob and horchata, a traditional Mexican drink made with rice and cinnamon.

Alexandra Gomez said that the money would be used to send the Grand County High School club members to tour college campuses.

Gomez said that she enjoyed the club and that it that was a good opportunity to come together and help one another.

The club also meets on on Tuesdays at the MVMC to mentor younger students.

“We read together. We eat together,” Gomez said. “We listen to what they have to say and we help.”

The Cinco de Mayo celebration came only a few days after graffiti was scrawled on a fence on 400 N. that included phrases like “death to all Mexicans.”

The graffiti, which was found and removed on Wednesday, May 1, referenced Corina Yardley, who is now awaiting trial for obstructing justice in the slaying of Gregorio Campos. Campos’ body was found with three gunshot wounds in the Colorado River on April 6. Brody Krukenberg and Tony Nelson, both age 16, are charged with first degree murder and awaiting trial. Krukenberg is the son of Yardley.

Sarah Hefron, the original director of the MVMC and an MVMC board member expressed relief to celebrate as a community in light of recent events.

“As we share food, dancing, and smiles, there is such warmth – it’s easy to feel our common humanity whatever our skin color or culture – that we all want to be safe, to connect, to be happy,” Hefron said. “I hope events like this contribute to healing divisions and that we as a community act clearly to ensure safety and respect for all our members of our community.”

Moab police chief Mike Navarre attended the Cinco de Mayo celebration at the MVMC on Sunday to enjoy a dinner of Navajo tacos with his wife.

“I support the multicultural center,” Navarre said. “I wanted to make sure everyone is okay and make myself available if anyone needed to talk to me.”

Navarre emphasized that the graffiti doesn’t represent how Moab feels about the Latino community.

“That’s one negative person. But it has huge impact,” Navarre said. “When something adverse happens like that, our reaction is to combat that by telling people we don’t feel that way. We don’t agree with that.”

Attending the Cinco de Mayo celebration was a way to combat the racism, by bringing the community together to enjoy good food and music, he said.

Navarre said that there is a liaison at the MVMC for people to discuss concerns or report activities if someone is worried about meeting with police officers face to face because of lack of documentation.

“If you’re victim in my community, I don’t care what your status is,” Navarre said. “We’re here. We support you.”