'Grito De Independencia' Celebrated By Los Angeles Mexican-American Community
LOS ANGELES -- Mexican and Mexican-American residents celebrated this Thursday the traditional ceremony of the Scream of Independence or “Grito de Independencia” to commemorate the struggle for freedom led by the priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla in the Mexican state of Guanajuato, on September 15, 1810.
The austere ceremony marking the 201st anniversary of the independence of the neighboring country was celebrated in downtown Los Angeles’ historic Placita Olvera, with participation by local community leaders, including Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
At least 1,000 people congregated in the gardens adjacent to Union station where Mexico’s Consul General David Figueroa Ortega pronounced the traditional “Viva Mexico!, Viva Mexico!, Viva Mexico!” at the end of his speech. At the same time, thousands of similar commemorations were held within Mexico and in other cities outside the country where Mexicans now live.
Villaraigosa, together with Los Angeles city council members Jose Huizar, Tony Cardenas, Ed Reyes and Jan Perry, as well as Jose Duarte, president of the organizing Patriotic Mexican Civic Committee (CCPM), rang the symbolic independence bell.
The civic act echoed the bells with which Hidalgo called the Mexican people to rebel and fight against Spanish dominance, to establish a new sovereign country.
“You are standing today in a land that had Mexican origins,” said the diplomat to those gathered. “In a good sense, we are conquering it slowly, with our continuing and dedicated work.”
Although there was a much smaller presence of Mexicans compared to the last several years, nothing could prevent 81-year-old Josefina Flores from celebrating her Mexican origins. “When I listen to our national anthem, my skin has goosebumps and my heartbeat speeds up,” said the native of Autlan de la Grana in the state of Jalisco. “I am an American citizen and as they say, I don’t belong there nor here, but in my heart I will always keep my pretty and dear Mexico.”
Mariachi bands contributed music while dozens of young dancers from the group Casa Esperanza, wearing typical Mexican costumes, performed the traditional “Jarabe Tapatio,” “El Son de la Negra” and the well known “Guadalajara, Guadalajara,” to the enjoyment of tourists and visitors. The Aztec Dance troupee Tlazolteo reflected the Mestizo roots of many Mexicans as well as their pre-Hispanic culture, with the sound of drums and ritual dances.
The ceremony conmemorating the “Grito” coincided with the 101th anniversary of the beginning of the Mexican Revolution, an additional reason to consider the more glorious past of a country currently suffering form increased fear and violence in the aftermath of Mexico President Felipe Calderon’s war against the drug cartels. In states like Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon, Tamaulipas, and others, the celebrations were in stark contrast to the extreme security measures in place.
“Whatever damages Mexico, damages us too,” said Councilwoman Perry to HuffPost LatinoVoices.
“It is important not to think that Mexico is only represented by problems at this moment,” said Consul General David Figueroa in an interview with HuffPost LatinoVoices. “But Mexico will not give up and will prove the world that with pride, we can fight together. But we must also see our beauty, our cultural and historical richness.”
Antonio Villaraigosa, whose family arrived to Los Angeles from the state of Guanajuato, said that the important thing is to emphasize the contribution of Mexicans to the United States.
“My mother said always that we should be proud of our roots and remember what the United States did for us.”
Concerning the drug wars in the neighboring country, he said “it is caused partially by the drug consumption in the USA and the weapons sent there.”
Jose Huizar, the first councilman of Los Angeles to be born in Mexico, said he was proud of his origins. “But I am not happy with the economic crisis and the lack of security that millions of Mexicans are suffering.”
He predicted the current crisis in Mexico will “change when they have a new, young president,” referring to the candidacy of the mayor of Mexico City, Marcelo Ebrard, who on September 10 had attended the 65th Mexican Independence Parade in Los Angeles before a crowd of 200,000 people in East Los Angeles.
“I don’t know why, but we Mexicans celebrate everything, and even better with tequila,” said Jose Duarte of the CCPM. “We laugh of our own troubles and nobody can change that... there is no other country like Mexico.”
Last Saturday, under sunny skies, thousands of participants paraded on Cesar Chavez boulevard in East LA. Villaraigosa and Ebrard shouted together “Viva Mexico!”, wishing well to the independence of that country, to the immigrants and the fate of the immigration reform.
“Yes, we want a reform so our undocumented people get out of the shadows,” said Carmen Escobedo, 65, born in Zacatecas and an American citizen. “We know that right now almost nothing can be done, but if we reelect Obama we may have some chance in the future.”
School music bands and representatives from different Federations of Mexican Immigrants participated in the parade, led by the Grand Marshall, TV producer Carla Estrada, with TV commentator Raul De Molina at her side and singer Carmen Jara riding a horse and dressing a charro uniform.
The annual parade, the oldest in the United States cellebrating Mexican independence, ended with a Mariachi festival.