By Andrea Flores

DENVER (CBS4) – As the City of Denver pushes for a return to normal, the Cinco de Mayo Festival in Civic Center Park was canceled due to the pandemic for the second year in a row. Instead, a smaller outdoor gathering in Denver’s RiNo neighborhood gave people the opportunity to celebrate while staying safe.

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In Denver, Latinos and Chicanos have disproportionately been impacted by COVID-19. For many, large family gatherings and celebrations were put on hold. Now, with restrictions loosening up, and more people getting vaccinated, the community came together to celebrate Mexican culture.

Maria Lopez Martinez is fully vaccinated and happy to celebrate Cinco de Mayo.

“Hispanics, Mexicans, Chicanos, I think that everyone here in Denver and Colorado all over the world needed this to happen so that we can actually feel like everything is coming back to normal,” Lopez Martinez said.

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The celebration at Number Thirty Eight in Denver’s RiNo neighborhood benefits NEWSED, an organization providing opportunities to underserved communities.

READ MORE: The Forgotten History Of Colorado: How Hispano & Chicano People Shaped The State

Jeanette Trujillo Lucero, founder of Fiesta Colorado, a traditional ballet folklorico dance company, performed at the event. After more than a year of performances put on hold, she’s happy to be sharing her culture with the community once again.

“During the pandemic, it has really been the arts that really saved our souls in many ways,” said Trujillo Lucero. “Cinco de Mayo really represents the traditions of the people and the pride of the people.”

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While the pandemic isn’t over yet, Lopez Martinez is happy to celebrate her heritage safely.

“It feels a lot more comfortable coming around here and being around all kinds of people, finally,” Lopez Martinez said.

Cinco de Mayo at Civic Center Park is returning in 2022. To learn more about NEWSED, https://newsed.org/.

Andrea Flores