Evanston Public Library celebrates Cinco de Mayo

Kimberly Railey

Nine children gathered at the Evanston Public Library on Thursday for stories, songs and a craft to celebrate Cinco de Mayo.

“It was what we were hoping for,” said Linda Balla, a library assistant who helped organize the event. “Kids took away that every culture has celebrations we can appreciate and share, no matter what their ethnic backgrounds are. Evanston is a crazy cultural quilt.”

The celebration, which was held for the first time at the main branch, 1703 Orrington Ave., began with a discussion of what Cinco de Mayo is. Librarian Juliette Swett explained how the holiday’s origins reflect the victory of the Mexican city Puebla.

Now, the United States celebrates the holiday more than other parts of Mexico, she said. The students later sang songs that combined English and Spanish.

“By singing songs, the celebration of other cultures becomes much more accessible,” Swett said.

Swett and Balla also read stories that incorporated both languages to the children.

Rahma Bavelaar, a fourth-year religious studies graduate student present with her daughter, said she appreciated the event’s bilingual emphasis.

“It’s a way of celebrating American culture as it is,” Bavelaar said.

Children then decorated a sombrero, which consisted of a red paper cup glued atop a colorful paper plate.

They adorned their sombreros with feathers, sequins and pipe cleaners.

“My daughter loved the craft,” said Chicago resident Amber Gallagher, who brought her daughter to the event. “We’ll definitely come again.”

Balla also stressed the event served as a way for parents to become more culturally aware, too. In future years, they plan to continue hosting the event.

“We don’t want other cultures to have to give up their traditions,” Balla said. “We want to share them.”

Furthermore, the celebration showcased the library’s atmosphere of cultural acceptance, she said.

“It’s important for us to make the library a comfortable place for every ethnicity, especially for those whose home countries don’t have library services,” Balla said. “Everyone is welcome here, and we want people to see that.”

[email protected]