ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Saturday morning, St. Paul’s west side will host their annual Cinco de Mayo parade.

The star of the show is Tomasa Castillo, a 98-year-old great great grandmother. Castillo sat down with WCCO to talk about the big day.

“I love St. Paul, I love the west side,” Castillo said.

And clearly the west side loves her. She’s been named Grand Marshal of this year’s Cinco de Mayo parade.

Her daughter Virginia Hernandez told WCCO, “Yes, yes, everybody was so excited!  Because its time they recognize this 98-year-old lady for what she’s done.”

The daughter of Mexican Immigrants, she married Nicholas Castillo, and had six children. The couple’s known for feeding anyone who knocked on their door.

“If they needed help, we helped them. We didn’t have no money but we helped them anyway,” Castillo said.

Did she ever. In 1971, she helped start a clinic to offer bilingual care for her neighbors, recruiting nurses and doctors who could speak Spanish. Castillo welcomed Caesar Chavez to her home to protest the unfair treatment of migrant workers.

She helped start the Chicano studies program at the University of Minnesota and grow a community park in her beloved husband’s name, Parque Castillo.

And soon, she’ll add grand marshal to her resume.

“It’s gonna be fun. I know it’s gonna be fun,” Castillo said.

And with Tomassa leading the parade it will be, “Oh yeah, I had my nails painted.”  After all, she has a lot of waving to do.

Tomassa almost decided to pull out of the parade. She lost her beloved oldest son Nick to cancer two weeks ago. But she’s going through with this because Nick was so excited she was going to get this honor.

Parade is Saturday, at 10 a.m.

Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield