It was a big day for culture at ProAct in Red Wing, as classroom instructor A’ja Garza helped participants understand the real meaning of the Cinco de Mayo holiday, and used available materials to enhance the festivities.

“We dressed up in our attire, grabbed our shakers and learned about the actual history of Cinco de Mayo,” said Garza. Often mistaken as Mexican Independence Day, the holiday actually commemorates a single battle in 1862 when the Mexican army was victorious over France.

The armies back then prepared for battle, but ProAct’s participants prepared for celebration. They painted ponchos on canvas cloth rolls, made shakers or maracas using cups, glue and rice and decorated them, Garza explains. Smaller sombreros were made from paper plats and bowls and a large pinata was constructed from available cardboard and shredded tissue paper. “I’d say I’m pretty handy with a stapler and a glue gun,” she said.

Participants vigorously shook their maracas to traditional Mexican music, danced, did the limbo and ate chips and salsa. Instructor Kathy Tesch made churros, a Latin sweet bread. “And, everyone had a whack at the pinata, which gave another level of treats.”

The holiday celebration was part of an around the world educational tour that Garza is leading. Groups have virtually visited countries including Germany, Sweden, Spain, France, Romania and Portugal.

Garza said it’s important for all people to try new things and expand their horizons in the world. “It’s just healthy!” June may bring more interesting explorations involving Native American heritage and indigenous peoples. With limited staffing, the instructor is taking things day by day.