Hispanic Heritage Month begins Thursday in Waukegan with Fiestas Patrias

Hispanic Heritage Month begins Thursday in Waukegan with Queen’s Coronation Fiestas Patrias and a Grito de Dolores celebrating when Mexico declared independence from Spain in 1810.

Fiestas Patrias begins Hispanic Heritage Month in Waukegan, which is also observed nationally from September 15 to October 15 to celebrate the independence of not only Mexico, but also the Latin American countries of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Chile.

Margaret Carrasco, the director of the festival, said that although the call for independence was first made on September 16, 1810 by the Reverend Miguel Hidalgo, a priest from Mexico, the celebration traditionally begins the night before.

After the Queen’s coronation on Thursday, Carrasco said there would be a re-enactment of the Cry for Independence where someone says “Viva Mexico” three times. There will be another re-enactment on Sunday during the annual Fiestas Patrias celebration.

The city’s annual community-wide celebration of Fiestas Patrias takes place on Sunday with a parade, festival and reenactment of the Grito de Dolores in downtown Waukegan, featuring the region’s top Mexican official.

Sandra Mendoza, Mexico’s consul general in Chicago, will shout “Long live Mexico” three times during the re-enactment of the start of the battle for independence from Spain.

Deputy Arturo Hernandez Tapia, a member of Mexico’s federal legislature, will also take part in weekend activities, including Thursday’s Grito de Dolores and other festival events. He’ll say “Viva Mexico” at Thursday’s Grito de Dolores.

Tapia will announce the various parade participants at the main stand near Washington Street and Sheridan Road as the procession moves onto the festival grounds in the parking lot near Washington and Sheridan.

“It’s a celebration of the independence of Mexico and other Latin American countries,” Carrasco said. “We have never seen people of this stature come to our parade and festival.”

Waukegan Mayor Ann Taylor said in an email that she was thrilled the parade was once again taking place in the city. The city’s large number of Latinx residents is an important part of the community’s culture.

“We view our diversity as an asset to our community,” she wrote. “Our residents and neighbors from all walks of life have the opportunity to soak up the sounds, culture and tastes of Latin America here in Waukegan.”

The parade begins at noon Sunday at the corner of Washington and Butrick streets and continues east to Sheridan Road. Carrasco said there were 100 attendees Thursday and she expects that number to grow.

State Representative Rita Mayfield, D-Waukegan, will be the parade grand marshal. There will be around 80 horses with riders entertaining the spectators, as well as a large contingent Waukegan High School Junior ROTC. There will also be Mexican artists.

“There will be dancing and colorful costumes,” Carrasco said. “We really want to involve young people. We need new blood to fully perpetuate these traditions.

After the parade, the festival begins at 1 p.m. in the parking lot near Sheridan and Washington. Carrasco said there will be live music including mariachi bands, singers and more. In addition to Mexican acts, shows from other Latin American countries will be presented.

The Grito de Dolores starts at 3 p.m. on Sundays at the same location. Carrasco said attendees will be dressed in costumes resembling worm clothing in Mexico in the early 1800s.

“It will be a live re-enactment,” Carrasco said. “There will be Spaniards and people dressed as Mexican Indian peasants.”

Although her identity will not be known until Thursday evening, the Queen will also be part of the parade. Elizabeth Marrero, who organizes the Queen’s Pageant, said there were four contestants. It takes place at 6 p.m. Thursday at A Crazy Pace in downtown Waukegan.

Marrero said the Queen is someone who will represent young people in the Latinx community, know their heritage and be an ambassador for her people. They should be fairly fluent in Spanish and hang out with people.

“They should be ready to help the Latino community and represent it,” Marrero said.

About Bobby F. Lopez

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