Massive crowds are expected in Santa Ana this weekend for the 43rd annual Fiestas Patrias festival and parade, celebrating Mexican and Central American Independence from Spain.

This day is recognized each year on Sept. 16. It 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.

“It’s such a pivotal and empowering day for us here in Santa Ana because so many of our families were affected by this day,” said Councilmember Johnathan Ryan Hernandez, whose grandparents immigrated to the U.S. from Guadalajara, Mexico.

On Saturday, the City of Santa Ana and the Consulate of Mexico will host the ceremonial “El Grito De Independencia” beginning at 7 p.m. on the festival’s main stage.

Sept. 16 also celebrates the independence of other Central American countries from Spain — including Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua — and the date marks the beginning of National Hispanic Heritage Month in the U.S. 

Councilmember Jessie Lopez, whose parents emigrated from El Salvador, said the celebrations are very symbolic and meaningful to the residents of Santa Ana, a predominantly Latino city.

“There are many people, many residents, many taxpayers in our city that do not have the privilege of being able to go back to their motherland,” Lopez said. “For the city to recognize and to honor their traditions, I think it means a lot to people that can’t travel back and forth.” 

The Fiestas Patrias webpage breaks down the events during the two-day celebration. The festivities take place on Flower Street between Civic Center Drive and Santa Ana Boulevard on Sept. 16 and 17. Festivities include a street fair, vendors, live music, lots of food and carnival rides.

Saturday’s headliners include Marilyn Odessa at 8 p.m. and A.B. Quintanilla III — the legendary Selena Quintanilla’s brother — who will take the stage with Kumbia All Starz at 9 p.m. On Sunday, Graciela Beltrán is set to perform at 7 p.m. with Banda Los Sebastianes De Saúl Plata following at 8 p.m.

“It’s quite historic for us to have the Quintanilla family here in our city, to have [Selena’s] brother perform,” Hernandez said. “It’s going to really just set a precedent that Santa Ana is a staple community in the United States when it comes to celebrating Mexican history.”

This year’s celebration is bringing back the parade, which was previously a staple of the event but has been absent for the past few years. The parade on Sunday afternoon will start on Main Street and Washington Street, continue toward Civic Center Drive and end at Ross Street near the main event stage. 

The parade is centered around the theme — Hispanic Heritage: Past to Present. 

“To see their culture be reflected and what is now their home, it’s very meaningful [for residents],” Lopez said. “Tasting the food that they grew up with, hearing the music that they grew up with, being in a community with so many people that share the same desires or the same memories — I think it’s really important for them to see themselves reflected, respected and understood.”

Hernandez and Lopez both hope that attendees will leave the events feeling a sense of belonging and inspiration.

“I hope that [people] leave whatever celebration they attend with a sense of pride that their city recognizes the immigrant community here in Santa Ana,” Lopez said. “We are an inclusive city. We are a sanctuary city, and we want to make sure that our residents feel that they are loved and supported and welcomed.”

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


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