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Bush Has Cinco De Mayo Celebration

May 5, 2004

WASHINGTON (AP) _ After skipping the celebration a year ago amid Mexico’s opposition to the war in Iraq, President Bush once again took special note of Cinco de Mayo, one of Mexico’s most important national holidays.

People of Mexican ancestry living in the United States constitute almost 10 percent of the population ``and America is better off for it,″ the president told a friendly audience Wednesday in the East Room of the White House. The holiday celebrates Mexican troops’ defeat of a French army on May 5, 1862.

The White House is eager to court Hispanic voters, the nation’s fastest-growing voting bloc. The president was introduced to the packed East Room crowd as ``a friend of Latinos″ by Peace Corps Director Gaddi Vasquez, who said Latinos ``will continue to play a key role in shaping America’s future.″

Bush received 35 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2000, more than any previous Republican presidential candidate.

Although the White House denied it at the time, news reports in Mexico a year ago speculated that the White House had canceled its Cinco de Mayo event because of unhappiness with Mexican President Vicente Fox’s opposition to the war. The White House, which had held such events the previous two years, said the war had forced the president to curtail many public appearances.

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