VALPARAISO | Authentic home-cooked Mexican food highlighted the Cinco de Mayo celebration Sunday at Immanuel Lutheran Church.
Nearly 500 diners feasted on mole, tamales, frijoles, arroz (rice), pollo (chicken), tostadas, guacamole and ensalada de nopales (cactus salad).
Cinco de Mayo is the celebration of the Mexican victory over the French army at the battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862, and has come to symbolize Mexican patriotism and unity.
The celebration was hosted by Gloria Dei Hispanic Mission, a mission of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod in Valparaiso.
Tómas Angón, a pastor at the church, said Gloria Dei ministers to the church’s Spanish-speaking parishioners. The mission, which was created in 1994, sponsors English and citizenship classes, tutoring and religious programs for the congregation, including a Spanish service at 11 a.m. on Sundays.
Angón said nearly 70 of the 200 parishioners are Hispanic, but the annual celebration is attended by people of all cultures.
“We have had Cinco de Mayo for 10 years,” said Angón. “This event grows every year.”
Revelers also were treated to performances by the Gloria Dei Folkloric dance group and Mexican music.
Pastor Steve Bongard welcomed the group to the fiesta.
“Immanuel has been happy to host you, to encourage you, to do whatever we can to support you,” said Bongard.
Betty Rys and Mary Riley relished the opportunity to celebrate the holiday with the parish for the first time.
“Oh, it’s excellent,” said Rys, of Portage. “The people are beautiful . . . . the dancing ... the music. It’s wonderful.”