Richmond Art Center assists in community effort to build floats for Saturday’s Cinco de Mayo parade


The famous Cinco de Mayo Peace & Unity Parade in Richmond and San Pablo, which attracts tens of thousands of spectators to the cities and unites the community, is set for this Saturday, but even just the process of planning the massive event has formed bonds among local families.

For the first time in the annual event’s 10-year history, the Richmond Art Center has been working with local families to design and build floats for the parade, which starts at 10 a.m. Saturday at 24th Street and Barrett Avenue in Richmond and ends at Church Lane at San Pablo Avenue in San Pablo.

Renowned muralist Patricia Rodríguez and interdisciplinary artist Neil Rivas were commissioned to hold weekly classes at Richmond High School and the Latina Center in Richmond, where they taught art techniques and helped guide families, from toddlers all the way up to grandparents, on a positive, educational community project.

The float design classes were funded in part through a grant from the San Pablo Koshland Fellows.

float.4-28-4Rivas, whose work stems from his roles as a documentarian, educator, and activist, has been holding classes Wednesdays at Richmond High, with participating students receiving community service credits, officials said. The school’s principal, José de León, has been very involved with the class, helping students construct a 20-foot-long wooden structure.

The resulting float has a historical continuity theme, with a student-designed banner and mural with three-dimensional letters, said Rebeca Garcia-Gonzalez, director of Richmond Art Center’s Art in the Community programs. Here’s an image from one of the recent classes at Richmond High:

float.4-28-2At the Latina Center, Rodríguez, a well-known muralist, educator and founder of San Francisco’s Mujeres Muralistas group, has been teaching a class in float design with help from Victoria Ayala, a recent graduate from UC Berkeley’s Department of Art Practice. The float they built alongside community members at the Latina Center has a conservation theme, with all artifacts almost entirely made from recyclables, Garcia-Gonzalez said.

Here’s an image from a recent class at the Latina Center:

floatlatina.4-28Both completed floats will be on display at Saturday’s parade.

“The parade started as a grassroots effort 10 years ago, when parents wanted to engage teens through positive and creative activities during this weekend,” Garcia-Gonzalez said. “The Float Design classes are meant to acquaint them with their cultural heritage and introduce them to civic engagement though a creative project. It has been a great success and everyone in the family – grandparents, parents, teens, toddlers – participates!”

The annual Cinco de Mayo parade and festival was started in response to a couple years of violence and destruction in the community. In 2006, a community soccer group, advocates and neighbors decided it was time to create a positive remembrance of the 1862 Battle of Puebla, inspiring the creation of a peace and unity parade where community members are heavily involved in not only participating but volunteering, organizing and donating.


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