Brawley's Hidalgo Society threw earlier Cinco de Mayo parties

May 05, 2002|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

BRAWLEY — Calls flooded the switchboard here at the Imperial Valley Press after papers throughout the country, including USA Today and this newspaper, published articles stating the first U.S. Cinco de Mayo celebrations took place in Southern California, specifically at California State University, Los Angeles, in the 1960s.

The callers were aghast because they remembered going to, or hearing about, Cinco de Mayo celebrations thrown by Brawley's Hidalgo Society in the late 1940s, and even as early as the '20s, according to one caller.

As Danny Santillan of Calexico put it, "Where did you get your information from?"

In the case of the Press story, the information came from historians at the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.

Seems those historians (and certain friendly neighborhood reporters) didn't know about Brawley's long tradition of Cinco de Mayo celebrations. Our bad.

Hidalgo Society President Marcelino Felician said Saturday, "As for the first celebration … I'm not sure but this club was established in 1922 so if those people are telling you that it was in the '40s they're telling you the truth."


Regarding the Press article, Felician said, "I read that article but I just figured a lot of people don't even know where Brawley's at."

To help nail down a specific date for the society's first celebration, Felician took his cordless phone over to where the Hidalgo Society has pictures of past Cinco de Mayo queens.

He found one that predated the Cal State Los Angeles celebrations.

"There's a photo here from 1953 … so that confirms it," he said.

As for the modern-day Hidalgo Society celebration, Felician said, "We're getting ready right now. We're running around."

He and his staff were setting up food booths, preparing the stage for folkloric dancers, mariachi bands and an Indio-based band.

In the evening the society planned to stage its annual pageant and crown this year's queen.

Just as the society has done for more than 50 years.

>> Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419 or

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