Colorful dancers spun on the outdoor stage, while guests sampled traditional Mexican foods May 5 during Southern Indiana Center for the Arts’ Cinco de Mayo Fiesta.

Darnell Dukes, the center’s director, said the idea for the event started when artist Kevin West emailed her about his exhibit.

West, an artist and photographer, assembled a exhibit of black-and-white photography examining the Tequila region of Mexico and the culture and hardships of the people there.

The discussion of Mexico and May led Dukes to talk with Mally Apsley, a member of the SICA board who has cultural roots in Mexico.

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“Mally was a translator at the hospital, and I contacted her because she knew a lot about Cinco de Mayo. She helped with the whole planning and got others involved,” Dukes said.

Apsley not only brought along with her a network of people who donated time and food to make the Cinco de Mayo Fiesta happen, but also brought a better understanding of the cultural event.

“Most people think that Cinco de Mayo is Mexico’s Independence Day, but it’s not. The Cinco de Mayo Fiesta celebrates the victory of Mexico’s army over the French at Puebla. Mexico’s Independence Day is actually September 16,” Apsley said.

The event was attended by more than 200 people who were invited to watch Mexican folklorico dancing, a traditional ballet-style dancing performed by dancers dressed in bright colors, and try traditional foods and several simple arts and crafts.

Dukes said besides having fun, the main focus of the event was for members of the community to learn more about a different culture that is present in Jackson County and participate in something that is important to that culture.

Dukes plans on conducting a Cinco de Mayo Fiesta next year, too, but said she hopes to grow it in size.

Aaron Piper is a photographer and reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at or 812-523-7057.