Dolores Hidalgo Cry of freedom painting Independence Museum History Miguel Hidalgo

In the midst of a highly-charged political climate, with a president who has accused Mexicans of bringing crime into the country and has ordered the separation of immigrant families at the border, California and Los Angeles have remained defiant in defending these communities.

Partly it’s due to the large Mexican population in the state and its long heritage in this part of the country.

It’s also due to activists and politicians of Mexican descent who have organized to fight injustice since the 1960s when the Chicano Movement spearheaded education and social change.

It’s this history of defiance and fight for change that is renewed and commemorated every year on Sept. 15, when the City of Los Angeles holds the “El Grito” celebration that remembers the cry of independence in Mexico.

There’s no way to avoid the Latino legacy in the city of the angels that was once part of the Spanish and later Mexican empires until the middle of the 19th century.

It’s a rich and deep heritage that has grown in recent decades with the influx of immigrants. Today, about 30 percent of the four million residents in Los Angeles are either Mexican or of Mexican descent.

“‘El Grito’ is the kickoff for the longer celebration of Latino Heritage month. It’s really important that everyone take an opportunity to get to know more about all the different facets of our Latino culture and how diverse it is, and take appreciation from that,” said Los Angeles Councilmember Monica Rodriguez, who is hosting this year’s event. 

“There’s a lot of influences derived from Latino culture. I think it’s a good opportunity to break down those barriers and get to know one another better,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez represents District 7 on the council, which covers Pacoima, Sylmar, Sunland-Tujunga and other parts of the northeast San Fernando Valley.

El Grito de Dolores (The Cry of Dolores)

“El Grito” pays homage to the historical event that happened in Mexico in the early morning of Sept. 16, 1810.

Catholic Priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla rang the bell of his church in the small town of Dolores, in the state of Guanajuato, and gave the pronunciamiento (call to arms) that triggered the Mexican War of Independence.

Since then, every year on the eve of Independence Day, Mexican presidents reenact “El Grito” from the National Palace in Mexico City, ringing the same bell Hidalgo rang in 1810.

A similar event takes place this Saturday in Los Angeles, where a free community festival with music, food and speeches culminates with the ringing of the bell by Mayor Eric Garcetti, other council members, and the Consul General of Mexico.

This year’s event features internationally renowned Latino artists and entertainers, food trucks, a reggaeton silent disco, and a one-of-a-kind crafts fair featuring more than 60 vendors.

The main attraction on the stage placed in front of Los Angeles City Hall is the band Los Tucanes de Tijuana, who have generated a large and loyal following on both sides of the border for more than two decades, selling millions of records. 

Also performing is Selenamos, a tribute band in honor of the late Selena Quintanilla, the “Queen of Cumbia and Tex-Mex”; Mariachi Arcoiris de Los Ángeles, the first LGBTQ mariachi group in the world; and El Conjunto Nueva Ola (ENCO) from Mexico City.

“I really wanted to create an environment where families can come together, an intergenerational celebration to help bring all families together to enjoy this rich and deep (Latino) history,” Rodriguez said during a recent presentation at City Hall.

Entertainment and Politics 

Given the current political climate in the country, it’s impossible to leave the “El Grito” celebration out of it.

“’El Grito’ is that reminder that everyone in the community can come together and make change, and we must not give up that power,” Rodriguez said. “I’m very proud of the rich and deep roots of the Latino community that is embodied in everything that Los Angeles is.”

She noted that it is also a reminder of the cause of ordinary people that took arms for freedom, a message “especially poignant at this moment in time — that is incredibly important to rise up together in the face of so many struggles that our communities continues to experience.”

“We need to be aligned in fighting for civil rights of people who have made incredible contributions to this country,” she added.

Her colleague, Councilmember Nury Martinez, was more direct.

Describing herself as the “daughter of an immigrant family,” with a father who worked as a dishwasher and a mother who worked in a factory, Martinez said “El Grito” is a reminder that “we make every single day something that we are proud of and we make an impact.”

“Mexicans not only bring their delicious food and their culture and tradition, but their passion and the spirit of work to serve all of our community,” Martinez said.

“We have an administration that constantly attacks us, using racist and cruel rhetoric accusing us of being rapist and criminals, when we are the very backbone of this country. ‘El Grito’ reminds us that even in hard times, we should always remember our unity, strength, and the resilience of our community will get us through it.”

Mexican Independence Parade

The “El Grito” celebration in downtown Saturday, Sept. 15, is followed a day later by the 72nd Annual Mexican Independence Parade in East Los Angeles.

The Sept. 16 event is a rich tradition of color and culture and the oldest of its kind in the country. The parade, which starts at 10 a.m. and lasts until 1 p.m., begins at the corner of Mednik Avenue and Cesar Chavez Avenue, and continues north on Cesar Chavez Avenue before ending at Gage Avenue. The parade will also be televised on ABC-TV Channel 7.

Prohibited items along the parade route include weapons, sticks, poles, drones, glass bottles and any items which may cause injury or interfere with the parade or spectators’ enjoyment of the parade.

This year’s Grand Marshall is Armando Silvestre, a Mexican actor of the “Golden Age” of Mexican cinema.

Other participants in the event include comedian Felipe Esparza, winner of “Last Comic Standing” (2010), Omar y Argelia, the real-life couple and radio hosts for KLOVE 107.5FM and actor Emilio Rivera, better known for interpreting Marcus Álvarez in the TV series  “Sons of Anarchy,” and for appearances in other movies and television shows including “Traffic,” “The Cable Guy,” “NYPD Blue,” “Beverly Hills 90210,” and “Walker, Texas Ranger.” Rivera is currently cast in the new series “Mayans” on FX.

The day long festival begins at 11 a.m. and ends at 5 p.m.

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