The floats rolled by, full of girls in folkloric dresses, pinks and greens and whites and reds, as parade watchers twirled Mexican flags and mariachi music blared.
On Saturday, under a warm, clear sky, Houstonians turned out to cheer 67 floats and entries in the city's Cinco de Mayo parade in downtown Houston.
Thousands of people attended the parade, according to Mary Ramos, one of the co-chairs and organizers of the 23rd Annual LULAC Cinco de Mayo Parade, which honors a decisive and unlikely victory in 1861 by Mexican soldiers over an invading French army collecting debt the nation owed to the country, and on establishing a Latin empire in Mexico.
For Ramos and others, the parade was a chance to watch the brightly colored floats go by, listen to mariachi music, slurp down snow cones and celebrate their shared heritage. Ramos' great-great-great-grandfather on her father's side "was born in San Antonio, but that's when it was part of Mexico," she said.
Diana Del Pila, 42, of Tomball, said she appreciated the chance to celebrate her heritage with people of other backgrounds.
"It gives us an opportunity to celebrate our independence and freedoms - not just in the country we were born in or come from, but here in the U.S.," said Del Pilar, dressed in a sky-blue folkloric dress as she walked in the parade. "What I enjoyed was so many people from diverse backgrounds celebrating Cinco de Mayo ... blacks, whites, Latinos from other countries that don't celebrate Cinco de Mayo - all coming together to celebrate and reflect the community and spirit of Houston," she said.
High school marching bands, and JROTC units were also there. "We love to do parades," said Vidal Lobo, 17, in uniform, parading with his Air Force JROTC crew from Alief Elsik High School. The goal was "showing spirit to the city, and making today a great day, and making people smile," he said.
He got up at 6:30 a.m. to make sure he'd have everything ready.
"At first I was nervous I might trip, might do a wrong step, but our sergeant makes us confident every day," he said. He liked the smells, the aromas of pupusas, enchiladas, and tamales wafting by.
For Pedro Gonzalez Razo, 56, the parade was a chance to perform his passion: mariachi music. He had just finished riding through the parade with his musical group, Mariachi Calmecac, and was waiting to play in Minute Maid Park for the Astros' Cinco de Mayo event.
Seeing the parade was special, said Razo, a mustachioed man dressed in his brown and orange mariachi suit and holding a violin. Razo, from Jalisco, had been playing mariachi music since he was 14, he said.
"It warms my heart, it's our roots," he said, speaking in Spanish. He, five other violinists, a trumpeter, a bassist and two Mexican vihuela players were going to be performing songs like "Son de la Negra," and "La Malagueña."
"It's a special day because in Mexico, on the Fifth of May, we remember the battle of Puebla," he said. In Houston it was even more so, he said.
"They celebrate more here than in Mexico," he said, with a laugh.