Orange County residents take to the streets in Santa Ana every year to celebrate Mexican Independence Day with dancers, music and lots of food.

After two years of lessened celebrations during the COVID-19 pandemic, the 42nd annual Fiestas Patrias festival is coming back in full force this weekend.

With crowds of as much as 40,000 expected, the two-day event will span Saturday and Sunday — starting at noon each day on Flower Street between Civic Center Drive and Santa Ana Boulevard.

The festival celebrates Mexican Independence Day, recognized each year on Sept. 16. This date marks when Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla — a Catholic priest and leader of the resistance — gave his “El Grito de Dolores” or “the Cry of Dolores” speech, demanding the end of Spanish rule and calling on Mexicans to battle for independence from Spain in 1810.

The Consulate of Mexico in Santa Ana is hosting an El Grito celebration event tonight at 6 p.m., which will serve as a kick-off to this weekend’s festival hosted by the City of Santa Ana.

Councilmember Nelida Mendoza, who was born in Jalisco, Mexico, told Voice of OC the event represents an important celebration of culture.

“It brings me a little piece of home,” Mendoza said. “It’s a way to signify the very special coming together with family to celebrate something that is hugely important for the country.”

Notable performers are Mexican singer Beatriz Adriana — who will perform on the festival’s main stage on Saturday — and El Chapo de Sinaloa, a Regional Mexican singer and actor who will take the stage on Sunday.

Edmundo Gomez Moreno, better known as his stage name Raymix, was also announced as a headliner at the event. He will perform Saturday night.

Gaston Flores, management analyst for the city manager’s office in Santa Ana, said that in both 2018 and 2019 the festival brought out approximately 40,000 people.

Flores recommended attendees anticipate increased traffic in the area for the event. There will be a full closure to through traffic on Flower Street between Civic Center Drive and Santa Ana Boulevard starting 6 a.m. Friday to 6 a.m. Monday.

Flores said the street closures will not have an impact or delay on the construction of the streetcar.

Mexican Independence Day commemorates the day Mexico declared freedom from Spain, spurring a revolution after being under the country’s rule for 300 years.

“‘El Grito’, which means ‘the shout,’ is the actual surrendering of (the Spanish),” Mendoza said. “That was the shout of triumph for our independence.”

Fiestas Patrias will feature musical performances, food, vendors, games, carnival rides for children and a beer garden for those over 21 years old.

On Saturday night, the City of Santa Ana with the Consulate of Mexico will host the annual El Grito Ceremony on the festival’s main stage located on Flower Street. The ceremony recreates the traditional call to arms from the night before Mexican Independence Day in 1810.

The event is free for the public, and Mendoza emphasized that everyone is invited, regardless of ethnic identity.

“(We want to) signify and appreciate the lives that were given for our independence,” Mendoza said. “I want to be sure that all of our surrounding cities know that this isn’t just for Santa Ana. This is for everyone.”

Fiestas Patrias is celebrated across Mexico and the U.S. each year. The celebration coincides with the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month that spans from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15.

Angelina Hicks is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact her at ahicks@voiceofoc.org or on Twitter @angelinahicks13.

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