Latino community marks Mexico’s independence

Evonne Ermey
City Times

Beneath the crisscrossing freeways and vibrantly painted murals of Chicano Park, San Diego’s Latino community gathered on Sept. 15 with red, white and green flags in hand, to celebrate Mexico’s 197th Independence Day.

The park, an epicenter of activity in the Latino community and host of many events throughout the year, bustled with activity as performers put finishing touches on costumes and practiced dance routines. Vendors from the community sat comfortably behind booths as spectators hovered, salivating over sweet smelling corn tortillas and seasoned carne asada. The festival, the seventh annual at Chicano Park, embraced an atmosphere of family and community togetherness.

The celebration was organized by La Coalici¢n Pro Derechos de la Raza along with the Chicano Park Steering Committee. It showcased performances by local musicians and dancers such as the Balet Folklorico, Danca de Diablo, Calpoli Mexica, and the Mariachi band, Tierra Del Sol.

Community leaders and activists were also taking the stage to give words of encouragement to the community. These words urged community members to stay strong and continue their struggle for equal rights and opportunities.

One of the highlights of the festival was the marching of the flag, called the escorta, performed by The Group of Youth Somos Raza, a youth group for the Latino community. Atriama Jasso, the coordinator of the Raza Rights Coalicion, led the escorta and delivered a fiery speech to a rapt audience. She challenged the people not just to admire the works of former Latino heroes, but also to act against injustices they face as a community.

This is not to say that the Latino community is not active; the amount of coordination and community contribution at the festival was impressive. Christian Ramirez, a member of Union Del Barrio, a group that educates Latino citizens of their rights and offers legal advice for families suffering deportation, managed a booth near the side of the stage selling votive candles, T-shirts and refreshments. All profits were donated to the community.

When asked about the preparation that took place for the festival Ramirez replied, “This is a very grassroots effort, everything was virtually donated. The musicians all donated their time. The Folklorico dancers all donated their time.” He directs my attention to the different tables selling dollar tacos and donuts, “These are all migrant families, who, you know, needed extra cash. Many of them are suffering deportations. If you look around you see no Budweiser or Miller Light sponsorships or anything like that here. This is very grassroots.”

There were several other groups manning tables at the festival. Ramigia Vernudez, a tutor and student at City College, spent time operating a booth and passing out fliers for The Logan Community Planning Group Organization.

“We want to have a city sanctioned organization that will get to review development proposals in the area. We will then turn them into recommendations or rejections. Our recommendations will go to the city council, the planning commission and to the housing commission. Right now Barrio Logan is one of the few communities that has never had a community planning group,” explained Vernudez.

The celebration was the perfect opportunity for community leaders to embrace their culture and also offer support to Latinos struggling within the community. Ramirez remarked, “It is not only a way to celebrate our heritage, but also a way of resisting, saying here we are and we’re proud of who we are.”

The festival ended to a chorus of shouts, “Viva Mexico! Viva la raza! Viva Mexico!”

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Latino community marks Mexico’s independence