Crowds determined to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, gather in East San Jose despite stay-at-home orders

EAST SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- In the South Bay, pandemic or not, many people were determined to celebrate Cinco de Mayo as a group.

Crowds repeatedly returned to a parking lot on Story and King Roads in East San Jose, even after San Jose Police Department (SJPD) officers had cleared the area.

In the middle of a global pandemic, anyone driving by saw a packed parking lot.

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Mexican flags signaled the celebration. Not far behind, SJPD showed up to enforce social distancing health orders.

"As long as they're not bothering anybody, I don't see why they're breaking it up," San Jose resident and vendor, Simon Ortiz told ABC7 News.

Ortiz was out selling masks to those in the area.

Juan Guevara, a flag vendor for more than 20 years at this location, said the "new normal" has changed nothing.

Translated from Spanish, Guevara told ABC7 News, "It's been the same, regardless of what's happening. The same amount of business, the same amount of people- it's been the same."

Daniel Preciado added, "It's a very culture thing, so it's hard for people to kind of just stay at home."

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Make no mistake, stay-at-home orders are still in effect.

Additionally, crowds were gathering in Santa Clara County- the location hardest hit by COVID-19 in the Bay Area.

Video from the Mexican Heritage Plaza shows last year's Cinco de Mayo celebration.

School of Arts and Culture Executive Director, Jessica Paz-Cedillos explained Los Lupeños de San Jose celebrated its 50th anniversary late year. The group provided a free folklorico festival at the Mexican Heritage Plaza.

Last Cinco de Mayo also kicked off 20th-anniversary festivities for the plaza, also located in East San Jose.

"Last year, we had about 1,000 people at La Plaza. It's a 6-acre facility, and we had different areas activated," Paz-Cedillos said. "It was beautiful to see family, multi-generations at La Plaza, enjoying delicious comida and also enjoying the dance performances."

This holiday, the plaza is closed and events were canceled because of COVID-19.

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"It's the right thing to do, right? We're trying to contain the spread of the virus," she explained. "But what it means is that right now is our facility isn't being activated."

She continued, "Once we get through this as a community, and once it is safe to come together, people are going to want to see each other, to hug each other, to be able to celebrate together."

Back at Story and King, crowds were carrying on the celebration, despite stay-at-home orders.

The parking lot at the center of all the action was the same location where a large crowd gathered on Saturday.

On Tuesday, cars returned about an hour after SJPD first cleared the lot. A short time later, officers were back too.

"Oh, they won't stay away," Simon Ortiz said. "They'll break it up, they'll take off, they'll come back. They'll find another spot. It'll just be like a cat and mouse game all day. All night."

SJPD has made it clear, officers will not be going into crowds to issue citations to people violating the social distance health order.

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