GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas — Every year, when Grand Prairie’s Main St. shuts down, vibrant parade floats line up and uplift the community as a part of an annual Cinco de Mayo celebration.
Last Saturday, the community’s Cinco de Mayo parade drew hundreds to the city’s downtown area. It’s a 34-year tradition organized by the Hispanic Association for Culture and Education.
At this year’s parade, ballet folkloric (Mexican Folk Dance) group Las Estrellas de Tejas brought downtown to life with its traditional Mexican dances.
Jose Álvarez, the creator of the dance group, started the group for both high school students and those who have graduated. Álvarez described the annual parade as a highlight in his community.
“This parade is very huge,” Álvarez said.
Clara Chairez, a dancer in the group, decided to continue dancing after she graduated high school.
“They’re family,” Chairez said.
For the tight-knit group, showcasing the bright costumes and dances is more than just a hobby.
“I see a lot of Mexican pride," Chairez said. "I see it in myself too, now, and I feel happy."
Another dancer, Grelda Garcia, described it as her passion.
“I do it a lot here to honor my traditions back home,” Chairez said.
It’s a tradition that’s helping Grand Prairie High School Senior Michael Cortina overcome some of life’s more difficult obstacles. Everything from depression to the recent loss of his grandpa who lived in Mexico and never got to see him dance.
“I’m fighting tears, because I miss him,” Cortina said. “Dancing helped me a lot, so it’s not as bad as it used to be.”
Every movement brings him closer to healing.
“I feel like his spirit is just right here next to me right now,” Cortina said.
Álvarez wanted to start the group to provide young adults with the opportunity to continue dancing beyond high school.
“I want it to be a lifestyle," Álvarez said. "I really wanted them to live it."
Most of his dancers are first-generation students. Some of them were born in Mexico, while others hope to honor their parent’s home country.
Las Estrellas, which was formed less than five years ago, has quickly found success. For many of the dancers, it’s a side gig. They perform on weekends at events, restaurants, and festivals. A couple of months ago, the group represented the Professional Bull Rider’s Team Mexico on center stage at AT&T Stadium.
Together, they perform some of the dances that tell the story of Mexico's 31 unique states.
“Everybody’s just looking at the pretty costumes, the dancers, because that’s their culture,” Álvarez said. “That’s what they know. When they see that, it lights up their world.”
The dance group, which identifies with both American and Mexican cultures is keeping a tradition alive with each dance.
“To us, doing Cinco de Mayo, it’s not just a parade. It’s coming back home,” Álvarez said.