Afiesta isn’t a party without two ingredients — fun and lots of people — and Museum of the Albemarle’s “Cinco de Mayo” celebration this weekend had both.
The celebration of Latino culture in the region had something for everybody — dancing, food, art, games, music and colorful cultural costumes. The lineup on Saturday ended with a birthday party favorite, cracking open a pinata.
Charlotte Patterson, the museum’s director of education, said the day drew celebrants of all ages and backgrounds.
“We have a great, diverse crowd,“ said Patterson. “People from all populations are well represented.”
One of the day’s demonstrators said the event had the makings of festivals she remembers as a Hispanic growing up in Santa Barbara, Calif.
Kim Baumbaugh, president of MOA’s Friends of the Museum, was displaying some of the colorful costumes that were part of her childhood and Mexico’s cultural heritage.
Although all the costumes had similarities, each region had its own distinct style — from colorful skirts trimmed in layers of ribbon to the traditional Spanish white with lace mantilla, a headdress that cascades from a high comb.
In one region, the starched lace headdresses with surprising sleeves had a history. According to stories centuries ago, a ship carrying lace christening gowns from China shipwrecked on its way to Europe. Christian influence had not reached the Mexican shores yet, so the women had no need for the gowns in their present form. Instead they were converted into something more useful, sleeves, neck holes and all.
A cooking demonstration by Jack Baumbaugh was no less colorful than the fiesta costumes.
Jack Baumbaugh was chopping up purple onions, tomatoes, cilantro and jalapeno for one of three salsa recipes. The first recipe was only mildly hot; the third was a very, very hot mango salsa with habanero chilis.
Artwork by Cornelio Campos also reflected a culture in love with vibrant colors.
One painting combined skulls, angels, flowers, doves and a praying figure all in a bright pallet of green, red, yellow, purple and white.
Sandra Gates of Camden said she learned the artwork had religious significance for Latinos. She said a trip to Texas a couple years ago sparked her interest in learning more about the culture.
Her friend, Cynthia Guild of Shawboro, whose father was a Mexican immigrant, said she appreciated that Elizabeth City was seeking to better understand the Latino heritage.
The “Cinco de Mayo” celebration was a good way to accent the positives of a culture too often misunderstood and criticized, the two friends agreed.
“I think the Americans in Elizabeth City should learn more about the cultures of other people,” said Guild.