EDINBURG - Johnny G. Economedes High School held their seventh annual Literacy, Cultural, and Community Outreach Festival Thursday evening incorporating Cinco de Mayo, the event celebrates Mexican American culture and provides a space for students, parents, teachers and administrators to come together, have fun and eat delicious food.

“Most of the time when we meet with our parents here on campus it always turns out to be because the kids are misbehaving or whatever. But I think it’s always a good idea to celebrate. And, everybody wants to share their foods,” said Amado Balderas, JEHS social studies teacher and event organizer.

While feasting on Mexican favorites like chili con carne, pozole and frijoles a la charra, the crowd was entertained by student musicians and dancers. Conjunto Jaguares played conjunto and huapango songs; Mariachi Dos Mil performed classic Mexican ballads; and Grupo Folklorico Jaguar danced in pairs to traditional numbers.

In the library, across the courtyard, people were invited to listen to local Mexican American poets and authors read from their work. McAllen Poet Laureate Priscilla Celina Suarez and Edinburg author Richard Sanchez were among those featured. Balderas, a poet himself, emphasized the role of poetry and writing in Mexican American culture.

“In the Mexican American community, there’s always been a poetry component along the border, always,” Balderas said. “Even some of the older songs are very poetic, the corridos are very poetic.”

With so much going on, Balderas was proud of his students. The Mexican American Studies Club, who hosted the festival, worked hard for months under Balderas’s guidance to put everything together.

The social studies teacher thinks it is a way to start teaching students leadership and organizational skills. Balderas tells his students when they are out in the real world they'll have the knowledge on how to manage an event of this caliber.

JEHS Assistant Principal Antonio Ballesteros agrees. What started out as a small party to celebrate Cinco de Mayo seven years ago grew to be the second biggest community outreach event at Economedes – one Ballesteros sees continuing.

“The hope is that this is going to be a community event that is going to promote literacy in our community but also the culture. We are very proud of our culture here. One of the ways to promote and celebrate our culture is by having events like this,” Ballesteros said.

Amid the music, food, and readings, Balderas hopes the message of the celebration is clear.

“The most important thing is the idea of giving and sharing, and that you are part of this community,” Balderas said.