While many Americans believe Cinco de Mayo is the Mexican Independence Day, the fifth of May originated as a celebration of freedom and democracy and is now primarily a celebration of Mexican heritage and pride. September 16 marks the actual recognized day when Mexico celebrates its independence from Spain, “Fiestas Patrias,” a day after the Independence Days for other LATAM countries: El Salvador, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua.
Traditionally, in Mexico, the celebration will start on the eve of Fiestas Patrias with people meeting in town meeting places and decorating the area with flags, flowers, and lights of red, white, and green. At eleven o’clock respected Mexican officials ring a bell honoring the beginning of the celebration as the crowd begins to yell “Viva Mexico” and cheer “Viva la independencia.” The following day brings additional festivities including bull fights, horseback performances, and parades.
In Los Angeles, CA where there is the largest population of Latinos in the nation, Mexican Americans gather together to enjoy a weekend filled with music, food, and cultural celebration. Generally, the younger, more modern Latinos will attend Whittier Narrows Regional Park which includes carnival rides while the more traditional celebration occurs at El Pueblo de Los Angeles on Olvera Street where there are also artisan exhibits and historic displays.
Houston, TX holds a large event at Traders Village for its “Fiestas Patrias” celebration where attendees are able to listen to traditional mariachi music, dance, enjoy native cuisine and dress in costume to page further homage to the folk heroes of their past. Area ballet troupes will also dance and spin down the streets with a performance that will ultimately culminate in the crowning of Miss Fiestas Patrias.
Other cities also celebrate Mexican heritage with parades are held to mark the Fiestas Patrias occasion such as New York City with their parade in Manhattan and Chicago in the Downtown area.
While the event has somewhat included more modern celebrations in recent years, Fiestas Patrias remains a cultural event that serves as a reminder for Mexican-Americans of their proud traditions, heritage, and helps to reconnect them with their pasts.