Cinco de Mayo celebrations in St. Paul look different for 2nd year as pandemic continues

Cinco de Mayo celebrations in St. Paul look different in 2021, due to the pandemic.

The annual parade and festival on the city’s west side were called off. The Saint Paul Festival and Heritage Foundation said it was not possible to host a large community celebration in person this year due to the "challenges created by COVID."

The parade has been a tradition for more than 20 years and draws up to 60,000 people to the area every spring.

In the absence of a city-wide event, many Minnesotans still visited restaurants in the District del Sol, which is known for its Mexican heritage and home to many Latino eateries.

"We are excited and glad we’re able to, in some capacity, celebrate Cinco de Mayo," said Milissa Silva, president and CEO of El Burrito Mercado.

El Burrito Mercado is a Latino marketplace, bakery, restaurant and bar that also sells imported art and decor.

Silva said the mercado sold out of pinatas, as some Minnesotans decided to host their own ‘at-home fiestas’ because of the ongoing pandemic. She said they saw a spike in sales of tamales, salsa and guacamole as well.

"We miss the fiesta, we miss the parade. It brings a lot of new people to the area," Silva said. "But people are still coming and supporting the businesses, so that’s great."

Silva said the bar and restaurant also got a major boost from Cinco de Mayo crowds.

Their restaurant business was down 50% at the peak of the pandemic, so Silva said they are grateful for any event that helps bring in customers.

"It’s nice that we can go out and do these kinds of things," said Ana Arredondo, a first-time customer from Chaska. "Being quarantined was super important but we need community. It’s Cinco de Mayo, so it’s perfect timing to come and support our Mexican businesses."

Silva added, "It’s been a great excuse to have a party, so we go with it, you know? It’s great for business and I think right now we all needed a little something to look forward to and celebrate."