Pictured in banner above: dancers Adrienne Menchacha and Aurelio Medel
Article by Gina Myers
Photos by Karin O'Brien

In 2009, Saginaw's Cinco de Mayo parade went all out to celebrate its 30th anniversary. With more than 100 entries and lasting two hours, Saginaw's parade is the largest Cinco de Mayo parade in the state. This year, La Union Cívica, the organization that hosts the celebration, hopes to continue to grow off of last year's success.

Though Cinco de Mayo is four months away, La Union Cívica is already hard at work raising funds to support the parade and concert. "Young people take the parade for granted because it has always been there for them," says Larry Rodarte, Vice President of La Union Cívica, "but I remember when it wasn't here." Maggie Yrlas, who became Treasurer of La Union Cívica this past October, says that her position can be quite stressful. Sometimes when she looks at the bills the organization has, she wonders how they will sustain themselves. The organization will be celebrating its 65th anniversary on March 15th, and has recently seen its membership dwindle down to nine. However, eight new members joined the group in January, and they hope to see new members as the organization makes itself known in the community again.

"When I was young, I knew La Union Cívica put on the Cinco de Mayo parade and hosted dances," Yrlas says. "I don't think the founders envisioned the hall as a rental space." In October, a new crew took over leadership of the organization, and has been actively reaching out to the community and hosting events, including a haunted house for children, a holiday candyland, a tamale taste-off, and a New Year's Party at The Dow Event Center. They have also been making renovations to their building, located at 2715 Wadsworth, re-insulating the space to bring down energy costs, which during some past winter months rose to over $1,000 a month.

The haunted house, candyland, and tamale taste-off are all events La Union Cívica plans to host again, but from now until May, their focus is on Cinco de Mayo. If a business would like to sponsor the parade, they will receive free advertising in Mi Gente, the Midwest's Premier Latino Magazine. A number of organizations will be sponsoring brunches to raise funds for the parade, and La Union Cívica will be doing a weekly Taco Sale. 

In addition to financial support, volunteers are always needed. Rodarte says they could use 15 to 20 more volunteers to help out at the concert on Ojibway Island which follows the parade. "The benefit of giving back is so important to this community," he explains. "It's the city's livelihood to celebrate diversity. We have come a long way, but we still have a way to go." Rodarte stresses this idea of community. While the parade does celebrate a particular ethnicity, it is really for everyone in Saginaw. "A lot of problems can be solved by acceptance. We need to learn to celebrate all the ethnic diversity this area has to offer."

Opportunities to help

  • Every Friday, from now until the parade, La Union Cívica will be having a Taco Sale. For $6.00, you will receive three tacos, beans, rice, and a Coke. You can pick it up or have it delivered to you at your home or work. To order, contact Maggie Yrlas at 989-493-2234.
  • On Sunday, February 14th, from 10am to 2pm, Low 4 Life will be hosting a brunch at La Union Cívica (2715 Wadsworth, Saginaw). Low 4 Life will be donating all of the food and labor. Price is $10. Proceeds will support Cinco de Mayo.
  • If you'd like to volunteer at the parade, contact Larry Rodarte at 989-274-5074.

© Gina Myers, 2010