Ukrainians involved in this year’s Milwaukee’s Cinco de Mayo festival


One of the main organizers of Saturday’s Cinco de Mayo family festival on Milwaukee’s south side, Huyke spoke of the holiday’s roots — the Mexican army’s 1862 victory over France in the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War. Then he spoke of the Ukrainian people’s fight to defend their lives and homes against an invading Russian military.

“France had a powerful army that continued to advance on Mexico, but when they got to Puebla, the Mexican general got aid from the farmers who lived there, and they won,” said Huyke. “What we’ve learned from that is that despite overwhelming odds, people can accomplish anything.”

Huyke, the publisher of El Conquistador Latino Newspaper, said Cinco de Mayo is a celebration not just of one country, but of the human spirit.

And so on Saturday, the celebration was dedicated to the people of Ukraine. El Conquistador and UMOS, a Milwaukee-based advocacy organization supporting housing, child development and social services for underserved populations, staged it at UMOS headquarters.

The festival featured food trucks, music, contests, a car show and a carnival. It also included a booth sponsored by St. Michael’s Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, where Nadiya Kavyuk and fellow church members were selling homemade cookies, Ukrainian Easter eggs and jewelry, with all the proceeds going to support victims and refugees of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“We’ve been collecting money and sending supplies to people in Ukraine since the war began,” said Kavyuk. “But this is the first community event we’ve been to. We’re so thankful to be included.”

Although the day is celebrated in Mexico, Cinco de Mayo is not — as many Americans think — Mexican Independence Day. The celebration has actually become more popular in America than it is in Mexico, as many see it as a way to celebrate Mexican culture.

“The victory wasn’t celebrated in Mexico at first, but rather by Mexican Americans as a form of resistance to the effects of the Mexican-American War. The holiday then picked up more traction during the Chicano Movement during the 1960s and 1970s,” according to a recent USA TODAY interview with Mario Garcia, a Chicanx historian from the University of California Santa Barbara.

For the Ukrainians at the Milwaukee festival Saturday, that theme of resistance is felt daily.

As other members of St. Michael’s continued to accept donations from festivalgoers, Kavyuk scrolled through a group message app on her phone. Kavyuk, who has lived in the United States for the past 16 years, has family members living in Ukraine who are on the app.

One message was from a relative who heard sirens and wondered where her father was. Another was sent from a bomb shelter. Another was sent in the middle of the night. Halfway across the globe, Kavyuk was reading along, feeling the emotions from her homeland.

“Imagine, you wake up to hear that and you have to just go … to a bomb shelter,” she said.

As Kavyuk put her phone away to accept more donations, she noted the similarity between her family members fighting to stay in their homes and the fight of the Mexican people 160 years ago.

“I’m thankful that we’re here and we’re supporting each other’s communities,” said Kavyuk. “We need to learn about each other more. What is Cinco de Mayo? It’s about fighting for your home and winning victory.”

Source: MJS

Mexico Daily Post