Cinco de Mayo Festival Returns with Hybrid Format

The annual event supports scholarships for Latino students.

HWAO Cinco de Mayo 2019 dancers
Dancers perform at the 2019 Cinco de Mayo Festival in Springdale. Courtesy: Hispanic Women's Organization of Arkansas.

For more than two decades, the Hispanic Women’s Organization of Arkansas has supported hundreds of Latino students seeking a higher education. The Springdale-based nonprofit raises funds for scholarships through its annual Cinco de Mayo Festival, which continued last year in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic.

HWOA was one of the first organizations in the Northwest Arkansas region to adapt and host a virtual event last May. Now the nonprofit is taking what it’s learned and will offer both virtual and in-person events at its 22nd annual festival Saturday. 

The virtual component will be delivered via Facebook Live where guests can listen to testimonies from past scholarship recipients, and watch performances from local and international singers, dancers and comedians. Virtual performances are scheduled from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“We have a little bit of everything, but I’m not going to give too much away because I want people to stay tuned in,” event coordinator Berenice Alcala says.

2021 Cinco de Mayo FlyerIn-person events will take place outside the Center for Nonprofits at the JTL Shop, which is located at 614 E. Emma Ave. in Springdale. HWOA is partnering with Community Clinic to provide a free, drive-through COVID-19 vaccination clinic. The festival will also feature a drive-through food sale. Even though the pandemic is ongoing, Alcala says it’s important to stay loyal to the organization’s mission and a big part of that is advancing education.

“Yes, the title is Cinco de Mayo, but we are truly celebrating education, that is the whole motivation and purpose,” she says. “We want to ensure that our students out there in the community who are working so hard to secure a higher education feel supported and that they know that there are organizations such as HWOA who believe in them and who will support them.”

HWOA was founded in July 1999 by a group of mostly Hispanic women. The organization’s mission is to advance educational opportunities for Hispanic women and their families, to celebrate and teach others about their cultures, and to become active participants in the community.

Over the last two decades, HWOA has awarded 488 scholarships to Latino students, many of whom are first-generation college students. Twenty-five more students will receive $1,000 scholarships at this weekend’s festival. 

“We are pleased to celebrate this milestone promoting and supporting higher education for Latinos in Arkansas,” executive director Margarita Solórzano says. “Seeing the number of applicants increase every year speaks volumes of the interest among the Latino families to seek a better life through education.”

Support for students extended beyond the classroom last year and HWOA awarded additional COVID-19 emergency scholarships.

“We did two rounds of scholarships because of the need that we saw and the impact of the pandemic was definitely very difficult for a lot of students economically,” Alcala says. “We wanted to make sure that they felt supported and that’s why events such as these are so important.”

The 22nd annual Cinco de Mayo Festival is May 8. The free vaccination clinic is scheduled from 9 a.m. to noon and registration is required. The Facebook Live performances and the drive-through food sale are set for 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Pre-orders are required for the food sale. More information is available at hwoa.org.

Antoinette Grajeda
Antoinette Grajeda

Antoinette Grajeda is Editor-in-Chief of Arkansas Soul, the host of the Affirmative Action podcast and a Northwest Arkansas-based journalist. She has covered race, culture, politics, health, education and the arts in Arkansas for nearly 15 years.