Wendy Luna, 15, stood in the middle of a mechanic's parking lot, holding up her tiered white skirt, a tiara on her head. Waiting. • The day before, a woman she didn't know called her and invited her to ride in the annual Farmworkers Self-Help Cinco de Mayo parade. The only catch: She had to wear her quinceanera dress.
"I'm nervous," she said, smiling.
Butterflies whirred in her stomach as she shooed the lovebugs from her long white dress.
The Cinco de Mayo parade has been a fixture of Tommytown, a largely Hispanic neighborhood north of Dade City, for longer than organizer Margarita Romo can remember.
Romo, the director of Farmworkers Self-Help, an agency that helps migrant workers, said the parade is proof that even with minimal resources, anything is possible. This year's event drew about 100 people.
"We have done something in Tommytown (that) people never expected us to do," Romo said.
Tuesday, in the mechanic's parking lot at the edge of Tommytown, participants stapled the last of the Mexican flags to their floats and got in line.
Wendy climbed into the back of a cream PT Cruiser convertible. Preschoolers with green, red and white tissue paper woven through the spokes of their bikes pedaled behind her.
The parade inched by La Onda, a nightclub where last May a fight broke out and a 22-year-old man was killed.
A boy told Wendy she was beautiful, then clamored for candy thrown from a float behind her.
At a taco stand, her parents beamed and said they were proud of her. Tommytown doesn't have a pageant queen, but Wendy played the part.
"Viva Mexico!" chanted a group of children from behind a chain link fence.
The parade ended at Resurrection Park. Friends helped Wendy hold up her dress as they made their way past three crosses honoring slain Tommytown residents.
In the park, vendors sold beauty supplies, orange soda and popcorn. Signs in English and Spanish advertised free bread.
Parade participants recovered from the afternoon heat in the shade, eating, laughing and drinking.
Wendy stood with her friends on the edge of a basketball court converted into a dance floor. The women chatted in Spanish as the party continued around them.
Helen Anne Travis can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 435-7312.