Celebrating Cinco De Mayo in Willowbrook

Salsa music, great food and performances from a mariachi band and folklorico dancers kicked off a fun-filled Cinco de Mayo celebration at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Public Health in Willowbrook Thursday, May 3. More than 350 people attended the event, which along with food and music, also had resources tables with information about fitness and nutritional eating. Attendees ate traditional Mexican food fair such as frijoles and chicken fajitas, and sampled watermelon salsa and guacamole with jicama sticks. By the time they finished their meals, it was clear that the crowd was ready to celebrate — and celebrate they did.

Some attendees got moving with Cooking with Gabby Dance Troupe, five performers who promote healthy eating habits and exercise through choreographed skits, while others watched food demonstrations by Fox television Masterchef finalist, Alejandra Schrader or broke a sweat doing a little Zumba.

“We are celebrating Cinco de Mayo, we are celebrating healthy choices, and we are declaring war on unhealthy eating habits,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.

Mother of three, Griseida Giles, agreed with the Supervisor. “I need to take care of myself so that I can take care of my kids,” Giles said, as her five-year-old daughter and three-year-old son sat mesmerized by a man with a sombrero twirling a lasso. Griseida had just visited the Latino Champions for Change Campaign resource table and received a free cookbook filled with Latino recipes. Lidia Garcia, an outreach worker for Champions for Change, said her organization is giving away cookbooks in English and Spanish to promote eating healthy fruits and vegetables and to show people that food can be tasty without unhealthy ingredients. “These cookbooks put a healthy twist on traditional Latino meals,” said Garcia.

She went onto say, “We’ve had an increase in obesity and preventative chronic diseases throughout the country. The goal today is to reach as many community members as possible and spread the word about healthy eating habits.”

That same message rang true for Ashley Hiestrand, who manned a table promoting the Watts Healthy Farmers’ Market, held at the Ted Watkins Park every Saturday.

“We are trying to create a health Watts community,” Hiestrand said.

She attended the celebration, she said, to let people know that if they bring their food stamps, Women Infants, and Children (WIC) Program coupons, or senior citizen vouchers to the Watts famers’ market, the market would double the vouchers up to $10 a day.

Throughout the day there were testimonials from attendees such as East Rancho Dominguez resident Pamela Bryant — Bryant spoke of how changing her diet has improved her health. “I was ill, so I changed my eating habits,” Bryant said. “I no longer eat fried food and now bake my food, eat lots of fresh fruits, and drink lots of water.”