In historical terms, the battle that communities across America are preparing to celebrate this weekend isn't that significant, says John Renteria, director of Centro Civico Mexicano.

The May 5, 1862, Battle of Puebla is barely even noticed in Mexico, Renteria said. But the celebration of the defeat of French invaders by an outnumbered Mexican army, led by a Texas-born general, is becoming distinctly American.

"It's become more of a cultural, commercial phenomenon in terms of building awareness and educating the public about the Mexican culture," Renteria said. "It's really a U.S. day, not a Mexico thing, and that's fine with us."

Starting today, with a focus on youths and welcomes from Mexican Consul Salvador Jimenez and Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon, Centro Civico is hosting a three-day festival with expanded entertainment including folklorico dancing, mariachi and a variety of local talent.

The festival continues Saturday at Centro Civico and elsewhere. Downtown festivities start with a car parade, ending at the Gallivan Center where Jimenez, Corroon and Salt Lake Mayor Rocky Anderson are scheduled to kick off "Mexi-Fest."

Entertainment there includes Ranferis, a salsa and cumbia group from Mexico, along with local artists such as ES-KP, Salty Rootz Lavish and Infusion.

There will also be a parade and festival at Midvale Park, featuring a variety of food and children's activities in addition to entertainers such as Mariachi Sol De Jalisco, Fuego Tropical and Good Morning Maxfield.

"We're going to have a lot of youth performers, dancing, singing, mariachi," said spokeswoman Suzanne Rivas-Valle.

The Midvale festival will also give parents an opportunity to create digital identifications of their children, in case they become lost or missing.

"Everything is placed on software, so if anything happens to the child the only thing you need to do is push a button and the information is sent to the police," said Carlos Behajarano, who is organizing the Managing Information on Lost Kids event for Farmers Insurance.

Here's more information on some Salt Lake Valley celebrations:

• Mexi-Fest kicks off Saturday at 10:30 a.m. with a car parade from 500 S. 200 East to the Gallivan Center, 239 S. Main, where the festival starts at noon. Activities include a salsa contest, folklorico dancing, food and a children's area. For more information visit

• Three Days of Fiesta at Centro Civico, 155 S. 600 West, features a closed-street party starting at 4 p.m. today and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Live entertainment, Mexican food, arts and crafts and children's games will be featured. For more information visit

• Midvale festival: Saturday at Midvale City Park, 455 W. 7500 South. The parade starts Saturday at 11 a.m. from Main and Center to the park. There will be live entertainment, food and a children's carnival area. For more information visit

E-mail: [email protected]