Cinco de Mayo was big fiesta day in old days

In doing research into the past, it is sometimes difficult to nail down what you read and reconcile it with what you think you know. It has been my belief that the cities of San Diego and Benavides incorporated in the 1930s, and yet in the Corpus Christi Caller of 1888, we read about city officials in Benavides leading the city’s celebration of Cinco de Mayo. To complicate matters further, the newspaper provides no names of these officials.

In any case, on May 6, 1888 a 21-gun salute started the festivities as citizens raised both the U. S. and Mexican flags at the center of the main plaza. Another tidbit that raises a question is whether Benavides had or has more than one plaza. In San Diego we know that the main plaza is across the Catholic Church, as it is in Benavides, and that a second plaza, Alcala, is located on the Freer highway. But where is the second plaza in Benavides; perhaps our Benavides readers can clear this up for a non-native.

Martial music and shouts from the assembled crowd greeted the raising of the flags. The unnamed “mayor” gave a speech about the heroism and valor of Mexican troops. The Grand Marshall mounted a black stallion and led a parade. Following Grand Marshal was the Benavides silver cornet band, the mayor and other city officials. Also marching in the parade were the Benavides Rifle Club, in uniform as color guards; two benevolent associations; Mexican veterans; the Piedras Pintas brass band; and citizens in carriages and on foot. The parade made its way through the town’s principal streets and returned to the main plaza. Along the way, businesses and residences decorated with flowers, laurels, and bunting.

A large meal of venison, ham, turkey, beef, mutton, and many other delicious foods were served on long tables. The wine flowed freely. As the sun set, the crowd moved to the Arraujo Hall, which was beautifully decorated, for a night of dancing and fun. The crowd reveled in many dances until morning.

Kate Luby reported similar activities in San Diego for the patriotic event. The fiesta opened to drum beat, horns toting and canon ball fire. Students from Professor Luis Pueblo’s school gave speeches, played music, and read essays. Long Hall was decorated with pictures of Gen. Ygnacio Zaragoza, the hero of the Mexican victory over the French at Puebla on May 5, 1862, President Benito Juarez, Father Hidalgo, and President George Washington.

The program on the plaza grounds in the afternoon included a speech by Senor Garza, editor of a Corpus Christi Spanish-language newspaper. Cries of “Viva Mexico” and “Viva Mexicanos” were heard all day. Local residents of French ancestry were the butt of ribbing all day in San Diego.

Unlike modern day fiestas, the 1888 celebration had no drinks, no alcohol, no fights, no one was hurt, no one was cheated, and no disturbances were recorded. The one incident of note was that the northwest winds blew over the show or circus tent but no one was hurt. Judge Moses’ glasses broke in the incident and Willie Robert got wrapped up in the tent and had to be cut out. The crowd at the plaza was huge and lots of money changed hands. The fiesta continued all day and culminated with a grand ball on Friday evening. Everyone enjoyed the music.

On Saturday, the San Diego Uniques defeated the Corpus Christi baseball boys, 18-8.