San Jose revelers celebrate Cinco de Mayo

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SAN JOSE (KTVU) -- Hundreds of people and their elaborately tricked out vehicles descended Friday night on East San Jose to celebrate Cinco de Mayo.

A large presence from San Jose police was also on hand to ensure the safety for participants and spectators.

The date is observed to commemorate the Mexican Army's unlikely victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862, under the leadership of General Ignacio Zaragoza.

For many San Jose residents, the day represents a chance for residents to show their cultural pride.

"It's celebrating something with my son," said Robert Cruz, who was getting ready on Friday with his 6-year-old son, Alejandro. "I grew up in this community."

Souped-up cars and truck with large American and Mexican flags are a staple of the San Jose celebration. But in recent years, the annual event has been marred by violence.

Two years ago, a stabbing was reported in in the years prior to that, police issued 93 citations and arrested 33 people.

"The San Jose Police Department has taken substantial steps to offer up high-visibility patrols in certain areas," said police spokesman Albert Morales.

He said law enforcement officers from multiple departments will flood cruising area hotspots to make sure a good time doesn't get out of hand.

"Some of the things that we're looking for are people behaving badly or people who are creating havoc throughout the city," Morales said. "We're hoping that people find time to celebrate Cinco de Mayo responsibly. (But) we will be out there prepared to handle any situations that occur."

The San Jose Downtown Business Association says its has confidence in the police response and does not plan to hire additional security.

But some business owners said they plan to close early Friday in order to avoid potential problems altogether.

"You just got to be aware (of) your environment and try to avoid and not be so ignorant when it comes to letting things accelerate," Cruz said.

San Jose police said the department will have gang enforcement units out and will also operate sobriety checkpoints throughout the city.

Cinco de Mayo revelers can avail themselves of the free "Tipsy Tow" service on Friday courtesy of AAA.

The service will run from 6 p.m. Friday to 6 a.m. Saturday and is available to anyone, not just AAA members.

"If you need a ride call AAA and we'll get you home safely," said AAA spokesman John Moreno.

People who think they've had too much to drink can call the service, provide their name, phone number and their pick-up location and AAA will send out a tow truck.

The truck will deliver the driver, any passengers who can fit safely in the truck cab and the driver's vehicle to the driver's home.

"Tipsy Tow" does not take reservations, according to AAA officials.

Jesse Gary and Bay City News contributed to this report.