We were ushered in to a crowded Indian Treaty Room at the EEOB annex, for the first "Cinco de Mayo" celebration under the Trump Administration.
We got there a little before the ceremony got under way, around 5:20pm-ish.
It's the first time in 16 years that it's held at a building other than the White House, and without POTUS, and it´s being celebrated on the eve of the actual date.
This time, the event was presided over by the vice president Mike Pence. See below.
The ceremony marks the 155 anniversary of the "Battle of Puebla", when a ragtag, poorly-equipped and outnumbered Mexican army defeated French invading forces on May 5, 1862.
(Highlight of the event is when vice president Pence said that Latinos are a "priority" for president Donald Trump, and that he believes a true immigration reform is possible).
Please check transcript for quotes.
Run of Show:
Mario Rodríguez, chair of the Hispanic Advisory Council and president of the "Hispanic 100", which organized the ceremony, gave opening remarks, and then introduced Mexican ambassador Gerónimo Gutiérrez.
Gutiérrez started his remarks with a "dear connationals" in Spanish, and then proceeded in English.
In his remarks, Gutiérrez said this date "has become a truly binational occasion, reflecting the familial, historical, cultural and economic ties that exist between our two nations".
"It also serves as a reminder of our shared commitment to the continued strengthening of our friendship and to the advancement of the well-being of our peoples", he said.
The ambassador said that "Cinco de Mayo has now evolved and surpassed its original significance. The United States has made it a very important date of its own, in which it recognizes the invaluable contributions of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans to the culture and prosperity of this great country".
Gutiérrez did not mention challenges facing US-Mexico bilateral relations right now, but for did allude to them in his remarks.
"I believe that Mexico and the United States have together, on multiple occasions, successfully faced hardships and overcome difficulties so that today we may rightly claim to be true friends", he said.
He finished off by saying that "Cinco de Mayo" should be a reminder to everyone "as Presidents Benito Juarez and Abraham Lincoln foresaw, that a strong and successful Mexico is in the best interest of the United States, as much as a strong and successful United States is in the best interest of Mexico".
Gutiérrez then introduced secretary of Labor, Cuban-American Alex Acosta, who greeted people in Spanish and then in English talked briefly about his family background, and how his parents fled communist Cuba.
"America offers so much to the Hispanic community", he said, and later added that Hispanic sacrifice so much for their children, their family and this nation´s defense.
Acosta then introduced VPOTUS
Flanked by the US flag on his right, and the Mexican flag on his left, VPOTUS spoke for roughly 14 minutes.
Greatest applause lines were when he mentioned that Latinos are a priority for the Trump Administration, that Latina-owned businesses are a growing segment of the economy, and that Trump believes "real and positive immigration reform is possible".
Some salient quotes:
On "Cinco de Mayo" --- "the bravery and valor of the Mexican people have been an inspiration ever since".
"Cinco de Mayo has become a day to celebrate the extraordinary contributions that Mexican Americans and really all Hispanic Americans have made and continue to make the United States of America".
"Millions of Americans can trace their heritage back to Mexico"
"From the Arts to the Armed Forces, from the Sciences to Sports, Mexican Americans have made a lasting impact on our nation and our history books"
Pence highlighted "extraordinary number of Hispanic-owned businesses", which grew by more than 50% over the past decade".
Latina-owned businesses are the fastest growing segment, he said.
Trump "is fighting every day to empower Hispanic Americans to contribute even more to our country's future", he added.
"The president has made the Latino community a priority, and we always will", he noted, while mentioning that Trump has been working with the US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and others.
Today's House vote to repeal "Obamacare" is an example of Trump's leadership and marks "the beginning of the end of Obamacare", said Pence, drawing some applause.
Pence said once the Obamacare repeal and replace is done, Trump will work on "the largest tax cut in American history".
Pence also reminded guests that Trump believes this is a "nation of immigrants" and, as he told Congress in his first joint address, "real and positive immigration reform is possible".
Pence repeated Trump's pledge that he will "show great heart every step of the way".
Some additional background info:
Per a VPOTUS staffer, on the menu this afternoon: Chicken taquitos, tuna empanadas, shrimp & bacon skewers, vegetarian skewers, Mexican tostadas, and, for dessert, Mexican churros.
No Margaritas seen at the bar off a corner of the room, only sodas and wine.
The ceremony did not have high-voltage Mexican performers on stage, or the lavish performances and big Mariachi bands of years past, but had had the "Jorge Anaya Trio".
Without an actual number of guests at hand, your pooler guesses there were about 150 people in the room.
Among the guests spotted by your pooler were several White House staffers, like Helen Aguirre, director of Media Relations, and Sofia Boza, as well as former Bush Administration officials like then SBA Administrator, Hector Barreto.
Also conservative leaders Alfonso Aguilar, president of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles; Republican strategist Adolfo Franco, and Mario Lopez, president of the Hispanic Leadership Fund.
Roger C. Rocha, president of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), a prominent Hispanic advocacy organization was also there.
Cinco de Mayo should not be mistaken for Mexican independence, which is actually on September 16th. This is a minor holiday in Mexico but has grown in significance in the US, where Mexicans make up roughly over 60% of the Hispanic community.