“Viva! Mexico!” chants echoed through the crowds as thousands of people gathered over the weekend in Santa Ana to celebrate Fiestas Patrias.
Families, elected and appointed government officials, and community groups were just some of the attendees at who gathered to celebrate past and present Latino heritage at the 43rd annual Fiestas Patrias festival commemorating the holiday.
Orange County’s two largest cities are majority Latino.
More than 75 percent of Santa Ana residents identify as Latino, according to the United States Census Bureau. In neighboring Anaheim more than half the city (54 percent) identifies as Latino.
Past and present heritage is on the forefront of people’s minds this year.
“Fiestas Patrias is not only a celebration of who we are today, it is a recognition that we respect where we came from, in all its aspects. Not only the culture, traditions, and beauty of its folklore, but in knowing that, like the USA, these countries fought for their independence against European dominant powers,” said Zeke Hernandez, president of the Santa Ana branch of League of United Latin American Citizens.
“We not only celebrate our past history in declarations of independence, we recognize that we are part of the future history of the United States,” added Hernandez.
“Fiestas Patrias allows us to look back to the past to create a better future,” said Alexandro Gradilla, Associate Professor of Chicana and Chicano Studies at California State University Fullerton. “It has morphed into an American celebration of civil rights and human rights. It is our holiday to celebrate our power to make change.”
Fiestas Patrias attendees agree.
“I am here prideful, and happy to share this with my children, the history and independence of Mexico,” said Francisco Ramos, 41, of Orange.
“For me, the independence of Mexico means a lot, its something that for us Mexicans, it gives us liberty and independence, it is something to be proud of, and to be here at Fiestas Patrias to celebrate that year after year,” said Miguel Vazquez, who is from Veracruz and a participant in the parade.
The two day festival included a carnival, cultural cuisine, live music performances, art installations, cultural festivities, and a ceremonial El Grito de Independencia, as well as a parade.
El Grito de Independencia, a tradition honoring Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla’s call for the end of Spanish rule in Mexico on Sept. 16, 1810, was hosted on the festival’s main stage by the City of Santa Ana and the Consulate of Mexico.
“Continuing the tradition of El Grito is an important act of cultural memory and collective memory. It was the breaking of the colonial yolk of almost 300 years of Spanish control and occupation,” said Gradilla.
Sunday’s festivities also include a parade, which is returning to the festival for the first time since the pandemic.
The parade was given the theme “Hispanic Heritage: Past to Present” to reflect this passage of time.
“The theme was selected in large part to the absence of the parade since 2019, due to the pandemic,” said Paul Eakins, Public Information Officer for the city of Santa Ana. “We wanted to select a theme that marked the passage of time between the last parade and the one that would be delivered this year.”
“I am happy to be here today, look at all these beautiful people, celebrating, coming out especially after the pandemic,” said Yesenia Rojas, a Anaheim resident representing Guanajuato in the parade.
Here is a look at the festivities from the weekend:
Correction: An earlier version of this article stated the Consulate of Mexico helped host the ceremonial El Grito. While the Consulate was originally scheduled to assist according to the city’s website, they dropped out a week earlier and were replaced by Manual Galvez Sanchez, the mayor of Santa Ana’s sister city Sahuayo, Michoacan. That information was not updated on the city’s website.