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Elmhurst Hosp. rings in Cinco de Mayo with fair

Even though it was May 6 and not May 5, thousands came out to Healthfirst’s Cinco de Mayo Street Fair at Elmhurst Hospital Center Friday. The event featured Mexican and South American music, face painting and an award ceremony for Jorge Munoz, a Woodhaven resident who gives out food to the needy in Jackson Heights.

“We’re having fun,” said Luisa Arias of Make the Road NY, an advocacy organization for immigrants and one of the many groups that had a booth at the street fair. “There’s been a lot of people. It’s very nicely organized, too.”

This is the second year that Healthfirst, a health insurance company, and Elmhurst Hospital Center, at 79-01 Broadway in Elmhurst, have held the event, Silvia Posada of Healthfirst said. Located adjacent to the hospital on 41st Avenue near 81st Street, the street fair is designed to reach out to the Mexican community in Queens that both organizations serve.

“We are here to celebrate with them,” Posada said.

Cinco de Mayo, Spanish for “Fifth of May,” celebrates the victory of the residents of the Mexican state Puebla over the French in 1862 during the Franco-Mexican War. While the holiday is mostly centered around Puebla in Mexico, it has been reconstructed as a holiday to celebrate Mexican culture and heritage in the United States.

“We are brothers and sisters with the Mexican community,” said state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) at the event.

Live music such as singers and mariachi bands performed at the fair, attracting a crowd that listened, took pictures and occasionally danced. Posada said many of the performers came from the surrounding community.

“It was fun,” said Kimberly Rivera, a 10-year-old from Elmhurst who belted out Mexican and Colombian songs on the temporary stage. “My favorite thing to do is sing. That’s what I want to be when I grow up.”

Healthfirst and Elmhurst Center also presented a plaque to Munoz of An Angel in Queens for his community service work in Jackson Heights. With the help of his mother and a handful of volunteers, Munoz, who has a full-time job as a school bus driver, has been giving meals to the homeless and day laborers from 9:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. at 73rd Street and Roosevelt Avenue for seven years. This service, which costs $700 to $750 a week that comes largely from donations but some from his own pocket, has delivered more than 144,000 meals since it began.

“These awards are telling you what you’re doing is okay, telling you that you’re doing it for a good reason,” Munoz said.

Eduardo Giraldo, a businessman in Jackson Heights, praised Munoz’s work.

“Jorge Munoz is a wonderful man,” said Giraldo. “He’s fully committed to the community.”

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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