A year after the first known celebration of Cinco de Mayo in the gold rush town of Columbia in 1862, a group of 45 Latin women have banded together to provide relief to those affected by the Franco-Mexican War which s was taking place at the time.
They called their group the Junta Patriótica de las Señoras de Sonora, which translates to the Patriotic Assembly of the Ladies of Sonora, and they held Cinco de Mayo celebrations every year for a while to commemorate the army’s victory. Mexican on the occupying French forces during the first battle. of Puebla on May 5, 1862.
Now, for the 160th anniversary of the battle on Thursday, another Tuolumne County women’s group has come together to organize an event that aims to seize recognition for Columbia as the birthplace of Cinco de Mayo celebrations.
The event runs from noon to 3 p.m. Thursday at Miner’s Hall in Columbia State Historic Park, with music to follow at the gazebo.
“As the proud owner of a small business in Colombia, I feel a great kinship with the Latin women who have ensured that Cinco de Mayo is commemorated and celebrated as a friendly and unifying holiday,” said Teresa Torbett, owner. of Columbia Mercantile 1855.
Torbett is a member of La Junta de Mujeres, the group organizing and promoting the event, along with Barbara Balen of the Columbia Area Advisory Council; Mercedes Tune, cultural responsiveness and equity consultant who lives in Sonora; and Constance O’Connor, community activist and resident of Columbia since 1946.
O’Connor said she was a personal friend of Dr. David Hayes-Bautista, professor of Latino health and culture at the University of California, Los Angeles, who linked Columbia to the location of the first celebration. known from Cinco de Mayo while researching Spanish language newspapers from the Gold Rush era.
“As a former leader of the Central Sierra Arts Council and the Tuolumne County Arts Alliance, I am thrilled to be part of the culmination of plans underway since 2009 to recognize and celebrate Columbia and its direct role in the importance of this important cultural and historical event in our community that is not generally known,” said O’Connor, adding that plans are in place to make the event permanent in the park.
Balen and Tune wrote a letter in February to Eduardo Rivera Pérez, the current mayor of Puebla, Mexico, which included a 2008 article written and researched by Hayes-Bautista and historian Cynthia L. Chamberlin tracing the origin of the party at the Columbia gold mining camps.
At Thursday’s event, a response letter from Pérez dated April 20 will be read aloud in its entirety, in which he expresses his gratitude for the band’s “willingness to establish this important connection” with “the heroic act that strengthens the pride and identity of Puebla and its people.”
“It’s a great story, rich with a shared history of community spirit,” Balen said. “It’s authentic, original, and it all started right here at Columbia.”
The 2008 article establishing the connection was originally published in CHISPA, the quarterly publication of the Tuolumne County Historical Society, and later became part of the basis for Hayes-Bautista’s 2012 book, “El Cinco de Mayo: An American Tradition”.
According to the article, the first spontaneous celebration of the holiday took place in Colombia in late May or early June 1862, after the San Francisco-based newspaper La Voz de Méjico sent out copies of its May 27 edition which relayed the news of the improbable victory. on the French better equipped three weeks earlier.
The article noted that the Gold Rush was a time of great ethnic diversity for many towns in Mother Lode, as prospectors and miners seeking to stake their fortunes poured into the area in their tens of thousands from places like Mexico, Central America and South America.
A later edition of the newspaper included a letter to the editor from a correspondent in Colombia, who used only the initials AM, which spoke of a spontaneous celebration upon receipt of the news, with greetings, songs, banquets and drinks, CHISPA said. .
“On the first anniversary of its first spontaneous celebration in Colombia, just three weeks after the original Battle of Puebla, the commemoration of the victory of the forces of freedom and democracy over Cinco de Mayo has become institutionalized throughout California and has been celebrated every year since,” the article states.
Tune said Latinos from Sonora and Colombia who had lived in the region for generations and immigrants who had recently come to the region for the “gold fever” were determined to support the quest for freedom and democracy. those who fought the French in their homeland. , as well as those fighting against slavery during the simultaneous civil war in their new country.
“Columbia, California, and Puebla, Mexico, were united in their causes for freedom and democracy, which gave birth to a new history in both countries,” she said. “Sonorians living in Columbia and Sonora exploded with jubilation and celebration at the news. Cinco de Mayo was born!