FROM STAFF REPORTS

Get a head start on celebrating Cinco de Mayo this year by heading to downtown Hayward and Ashland on Saturday for music, dancing and activities celebrating Mexican culture and history.

Events continue Monday — the day that commemorates a 19th-century battle in Mexico's struggle for independence from the French — and will extend into the following weekend.

On May 5, 1862, French soldiers landed in the Mexican city of Puebla with plans to invade. Unexpectedly, the well-armed French army met terrific resistance from a militia of peasants and farmers. The Mexican troops were fewer in number, but they were victorious, and the French troops retreated. The clash became known as the Battle of Puebla.

Here are scheduled Cinco de Mayo events in the Hayward area:

• 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, Hayward City Hall Plaza, Watkins and B streets. Mariachi bands, dances, other entertainment and children's programs.

• 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Ashland Community Center, 1530 167th Ave., in San Leandro. Alcohol-free Cinco de Mayo con Orgullo (with pride) event will include a health resource fair, free food, raffles, entertainment and youth expo.

• Noon Monday, Kenneth Aitken Senior and Community Center, 17800 Redwood Road, in Castro Valley. Cinco de Mayo lunch of chicken and beef enchiladas, rice and beans, and dessert. The $5.50 per person cost includes lunch, entertainment and a raffle. Call 510-881-6738 for information and reservations.

• 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. Monday, La Salsa restaurant, 792 B St., in Hayward. Live mariachi music.

• 6 to 7 p.m. Monday, Civic Center Plaza, 835 E. 14th St., in San Leandro. Eleventh Cinco de Mayo fiesta in San Leandro. Entertainers include Mariachi Colima and Ballet Folklorico Mexicano de Carlos Moreno. Traditional Mexican arts and crafts projects will be available for children to make. Light refreshments will be served. Call 510-577-3462 for information.

• 6 to 9 p.m. May 10, Tennyson High School cafeteria, 27035 Whitman St., in Hayward. Mariachi Juvenil de Hayward will perform. Call 510-886-8910 for ticket information.