May 2, 2024 - Things to Do

Our guide to Portland's Cinco de Mayo Fiesta

Mexican dancers

Cinco de Mayo Fiesta, sheltered from the weather, is in Portland tomorrow to Sunday. Photo: Courtesy of PGSCA

Cinco de Mayo Fiesta is back in Portland Friday through Sunday, opening the city's summer festival season.

Why it matters: Turnout at the annual celebration of Mexican culture could be a measure of how comfortable Portlanders are coming back downtown.

Zoom out: A stretch of Waterfront Park from the Burnside to the Hawthorne bridges is fenced off for ticket holders and includes rain-protected stages for music, dance, boxing and carnival rides.

State of play: Cinco de Mayo is not so much a celebration of a famous Mexican military victory — although plenty of people rock the flag — but a selection of cuisines from the Spanish diaspora, with men on stage wearing the vaquero look and women dancing in traditional dress.

What we're watching: New this year is a lowrider car show (11am–11pm) by the Northwest Super Show car club.

  • While Portland kids might dream of doing doughnuts in BMWs, classic Southern California lowrider culture flourishes in Oregon too. Come see some sparkling gas guzzlers with perfect interiors and meet the owners beside the main stage.
  • There'll be no driving, but they will hit switches on the hydraulics.

Worthy of your time: Also new is live painting by Mario De Leon, who will be spray painting a mural showing key features of the sister cities Portland and Guadalajara.

  • Rip City Boxing will stage a youth tournament under the Morrison Bridge (1pm-8pm, Saturday and Sunday).

By the numbers: Last year 55,000 people came to the celebration, according to Brandon Treadway, who organizes the event for the Portland Guadalajara Sister City Association. He advertises in Spanish in Gresham, Woodburn, Canby and Salem.

  • At a naturalization ceremony at 11am on Friday, 50 immigrants are expected to become U.S. citizens at the main stage.

The vibe: On the music front, expect a lot of cumbia, the Colombian music that blew up in Mexico in the 1940s. The biggest act playing is Banda los Lagos (9:15pm to 10:45pm Saturday).

  • Banda Arkángel R-15, (9:15pm to 10:45pm Saturday) will shut the joint down with their Technobanda style.

Mariachi music may feel like a Hollywood cliche, but Mariachi Ciudad de Guadalajara (the mariachi band of the City of Guadalajara) is authentic.

  • "They're a national treasure," Rick Lamberson, president of the Portland Guadalajara Sister City Association, told Axios.

If you go: Cinco de Mayo Fiesta is at Waterfront Park from 10am to 11pm Friday-Sunday.

  • Advance tickets are $12 per day ($10 ages 6-12) or $25 for three days ($20 for youth). Walk-up tickets are $16 per day ($12 for youth).
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