Dancing horses, low-riders, ice cream: Detroit parades for Cinco de Mayo

Gregg Krupa
The Detroit News

Detroit — It did not take long for Luz Munoz to decide her favorite part of the annual Cinco de Mayo Parade.

“The horses!” shouted the 4-year-old. “I want to see the horses!”

On a day fit for a parade, the 55th annual procession kicked off at noon Sunday, beginning at West Vernor and Central, with the Detroit Police Equestrian Squad and other horses.

“I love to see them,” Luz said, adjusting her new sunglasses and brushing back her black hair. “They make me happy.”

With the trees blooming and the green of spring still a fresh young hue, the bright sunshine and clear, blue skies provided just the right effect.

Bicyclists from Midtown Detroit and Lafayette Park said pedaling to the parade was ideal.

“Beautiful day, without a doubt,” said Chris Casteel of Detroit, standing in the shade of a tree, his bike leaning against his body.

“Smiles are out. The flowers are out.”

It is an event to see, and to be seen at.

“I came to the parade because it’s a great local festival and full of color and interesting,” said Lori Clark of Detroit. “And, it’s just great to see everyone out in the neighborhood enjoying it — families, everybody.”

For David Wallace of Detroit, walking along West Grand Boulevard, approaching the route, there were memories of the Cinco de Mayo Parades of yesteryear.

Members of the Detroit Police Mounted Unit ride in the the 55th Annual Cinco de Mayo parade.

"Actually, we were the first African American group to perform with the parade, the Falcons Drum & Bugle Corps,” Wallace said, recalling events of 40 years ago.

“We were right on Woodward at Forest in Detroit, and we used to march in all the parades,” he said. “Our leader, Betty Faulkner, passed away, so things kind of faded after that.

“It was a community organization she had put together.”

Wallace looked up at the blue sky and then west on West Vernor as a man trotted by on a black horse.

“It is a beautiful day!” he said. “The horses are starting to show up.”

Having marched in the parade, Wallace said he has a somewhat less romanticized view of the horses than little Luz. 

“I remember when the horses got in front of us,” Wallace said, a wry smile beginning to light his face. “We used to know how to change cadences to avoid things on the road.”

A man rides a bike in the 55th Annual Cinco de Mayo parade.

Wallace said the parade still is all about fun.

Many in the crowds on the sidewalks along Vernor talked about how the Cinco de Mayo Parade is annually one of the first events around the city that brings throngs outdoors on the warming days of the year.

But at its base, Cinco de Mayo is a festivity of Mexican culture.

More popular in the United States than in Mexico, the annual fiesta has been celebrated in California since the year after the battle it commemorates.

On May 5, 1862, led by General Ignacio Zaragoza, the Mexican Army repelled a larger, better equipped French Army at the Battle of Puebla.

That Zaragoza did not repeat the feat a week later in the Second Battle of Puebla is less noted than the heroic defense against long odds by the Mexican forces, against the army of a European nation bent on colonization.

These days, the exuberance tends towards music, art, delicious meals at food trucks, partying and a parade.

13-year-old Alex Lowe of Detroit walks in the 55th Annual Cinco de Mayo parade.

Organized by the Mexican Patriotic Committee of Metro Detroit, the 55th annual procession moved along West Vernor, from Central to 23rd Street. It included the Detroit police horses, the Western International High School ROTC and 50 other participants, including organizations and businesses.

It was also about ice cream.

“It’s the dancing horses, the low-riders and the ice cream,” said Sue Hudnut of Detroit, who also rode her bike to the parade.