From the South Bay to downtown, Angelenos across the county celebrated Mexican Independence Day.
Much of Los Angeles celebrated over the weekend, such as at the 80th annual El Grito festival downtown. Festivities spilled into Monday to commemorate the actual holiday.
Mexican Independence Day is often mistaken for Cinco de Mayo. In actuality, Mexico’s independence is celebrated on Sept. 16. That’s when Priest Miguel Hidalgo, in 1810, urged people to rebel against the Spanish regime. Hidalgo’s call to revolution is also known as El Grito de La Independencia. Scholars can’t exactly agree what Hidalgo said, but it was enough to propel the Mexican people to fight for freedom.
The Roadium Open-Air Market in Torrance livened their typical Monday swap meet to celebrate. Hordes of pop-up tents encircled an audience that watched a Mariachi band. Families played games like corn hole and Jenga next to a taco stand.
The market has a mariachi band every year to make the day eventful, according to Sandro Duval, a manager at the Roadium. Duval sees the popular celebration of Cinco de Mayo as a way to bring attention to Mexican Independence, but is far more excited about dieciséis de septiembre.
“They get into it. I don’t know why,” Duval said, referring to the Mexican and Mexican American communities. “The clothes. The dresses… it speaks truly to who we are.”
By the afternoon, a crowd gathered in the Los Angeles Plaza Historic District, adjacent to Olvera Street. They sat and watched Maricela Ibarra sing over a mariachi track. During one song, a man hobbled over to her, leaning in to make the performance a duet.
Ibarra is from East Los Angeles and was born to parents from Mexico. She has been singing for 18 years.
“People really like it. I guess the way I get along with people, they’re like, ‘Man, you feel like you’re family. We feel like we’ve known you forever.’”
As a first-generation American, Ibarra sees independence as “the biggest gift.” The holiday is a chance for the community to come together.”
“I think independence in general is very important. Giving humans the opportunity to excel, to progress, to have a chance in life,” Ibarra said. “[It’s] a moment [to] take a load off and just enjoy and remember you know those that have fallen and just basically appreciate the community and keep our traditions alive-- our music more than anything.”
Celebrating Mexican Independence in Los Angeles also calls for bringing attention to issues that affect the Mexican community. Elsewhere in the square, the Council of Mexican Federations, set up a table to promote applying for U.S. citizenship and information about the upcoming national Census. Leticia Zarazua, a program coordinator for the organization, acknowledged that a lot of people don’t want to partake in the census count for fear of being deported.
Like Ibarra, Zarazua is a first-generation American and knows it’s an important day for Mexico. She pointed out the plaza’s surroundings: the vendors, the church, the mural. It’s what connects everyone to cultural life in Mexico.
Hazel Giron is among the many in the plaza that came to celebrate. Giron, however, is from El Salvador. She immigrated to the United States at 16 and now has three kids. Her husband is from Mexico.
Giron explained Mexican Independence Day is a day to celebrate for many countries. El Salvador was also under Spanish rule and celebrated independence on Sept. 15. Before heading to the plaza, Giron celebrated at her church. The gathering emulated the multi-nationality celebration by dedicating a group to each country for a potluck of food than ranged from Salvadoran pupusas to Mexican mole. But at the heart of it, what does independence mean to Giron?
“It means to be free.”