Merced residents came out in droves to celebrate the 209th year of Mexico’s Independence last Sunday, Sept. 15 — the day when Mexicans and Mexican-Americans shout out “Viva Mexico!”
The celebration was organized by Merced’s own Fernando Aguilera, the president of the Merced Soccer Academy, and was supported by local officials, leaders, businesses, and non-profits.
“We need patriotic events like this,” Aguilera said in Spanish. “It brings people downtown, and is important in showcasing and sharing our culture to others.”
The celebration began at 10 a.m. and went into the late afternoon. Several vendors and non-profit informational booths lined the streets decorated with red, white and green streamers and flags. More than 3,000 people were estimated to have joined the festivities over the course of the day.
“It just keeps getting bigger and bigger every year,” said County Supervisor Rodrigo Espinoza.
The event featured free family fun including automatic bull riding, traditional dances, and performances by Los Bondadosos, El Tiempo de Mexico, Fortino Reyna and Sonora Dinamita. Aguilara explained that proceeds made through food vendors were in support of the Merced Soccer Academy further emphasizing that the event was not only a time of celebration, but was also contributing back to the city and helping its youth.
Several tradition dances including UC Merced’s Ballet Folklorico, and the traditional Aztec dance of the ‘Four Elements’ by Xi-ipal Muuk, a dance group based in Delhi, where performed in front of the surrounding crowd.
The folkloric dance is meant to represent the culture of Mexican people by emphasizing its traditions, legends, and customs. While the dance of the Four Elements represents respect for water, air, earth, and fire. The dance is performed in traditional Aztec dress, along with the beat of a pounding drum while dancers with maracas skip and jump along to the rhythm.
The celebration continued with the singing of the United States National Anthem performed by singer Olivia Esquivez, as the American and California flag waved besides her. Juan Dario Constantino, a representative of the Mexican Consulate of Fresno, waved Mexico’s flag and led event goers in “El Grito,” a traditional cry representative of the cry that Father Miguel Hidalgo gave his parish in 1801 and eventually influenced the Mexican War of Independence.
“Long live the Mexican people of the Central Valley!” he shouted. “Long live the heroes that gave us our liberty! Long live Mexico!”
Several bands took the stage as the crowd broke out in dance below. Cumbias and Banda music played as couples swayed to and fro encouraging others to join.
“The sharing of Mexican culture is an emotionally happy experience, and more than anything, being able to share it with other cultures and people is a beautiful thing,” Aguilera explained. “The best thing about the event was the support we had. Support from local officials who took the time out of their busy schedules to come out and celebrate with us. Officials like Mayor Mike Murphy, Supervisor Rodrigo Espinoza, Councilmen Matthew Serratto and Fernando Echevarria, civic leader Patricia Ramos, Fresno City Councilwoman Esmeralda Soria, Merced Union High Board of Trustee Richard Lopez and Congressman Jim Acosta. Also, the businesses and people who came out to celebrate and support us. I want the people to see that we can have well organized family events. We can have fun and safe celebrations. We can shut down parts of Main Street to have these types of festivals.”
Aguilara also thanked Stonewall security service for keeping the celebration safe, and Diana Flores for successfully organizing the food vendors and keeping everything running smoothly.
“We have to keep the Mexican traditions alive!” Flores exclaimed happily.
The 2019 Mexico Independence Celebration is Aguilera’s sixth time bringing the event to the streets of Merced, and he promises that next year’s celebration will be even bigger.