The ceremony not only exemplified diversity, but attracted various visitors throughout southern California who sought talented musicians — such as Rocio, Los 2 Primos and Banda La Unica of San Jose.
Coordinator Linda Meza, who oversees the RGM Records Label that features her family’s band, Illusion Norteña of Patterson, said she couldn’t believe how big the initiative has grown compared to its start five years ago.
“Now, we usually get about 13,000 people throughout the day,” Meza said. “It’s nice for people to come out here. We do our best to kind of change it every year. We want to continue to have the event, and we hope that all races will participate as we grow.”
Mayor Luis Molina was exceptionally proud of Meza’s efforts and her humility in sharing her success. Money generated from various booths, including water and soda sales, went to the local schools, which gave many residents an added incentive to participate. Years prior, Meza’s has generated over thousands of dollars to local schools while simultaneously encouraging cultural dance clubs in the West Side.
“They’ve contributed a lot of their personal resources for the event because they want something in the community that represents culture and diversity,” said Molina. “Music and food defines our culture, but brings people together. It’s a great event.”
For many locals, the celebration struck a patriotic nerve, which called for celebration.
Mexican Independence Day commemorates the events of Sept. 16, 1810, when Catholic priest Miguel Hidalgo, rang the bell of his church to call the Mexican people to arms against Spanish ruling. This year, the ceremony was graced with the presence of an American consulate, who was deeply impressed with Meza’s efforts.
“The people are what brings us back to doing it again,” said Meza. “We wanted to target a large audience with this event and make it family friendly. That’s what I’m about. I wanted an event where grandma can come in.”
Hayward resident Richard McAdams is of Scottish descent, but was not deterred to celebrate with the crowd.
“I’m proud to be at this event,” McAdams said. “It’s organized, and even though this music isn’t exactly what I would listen to on the radio, I respect their efforts. If we were all the same, we’d be boring. Plus, anytime is a good time to celebrate your freedom, no matter what your heritage is.”
There was something for everyone to enjoy at the local celebration, including a children’s center, complete with a giant slide, carnival rides, a car tram, and various games to entice the younger crowd. Booths were also set up for face and body paintings, and glow sticks waved in the night sky for the nighttime concerts.
Folk dancers and participants showed off their customary garb and danced before crowds to delightful whoops and hollers.
Smiles were also shared all around as local organizations— including McDonalds, the Del Puerto Health Center, and California Highway Patrol— set up informational booths with free materials and services.
For added security, the Meza family fenced off a portion of the downtown plaza to keep dangerous intruders out. The family also foot the bill for added security, which frisked all men and checked women’s handbags as they entered the celebration.
“I wasn’t annoyed by the frisking,” said Flora Martinez, who had her daughter Anna, 8, in tow. “I’m glad they took precautionary measures because this is a family event to help the community and the schools. Everyone I talked to had a lot of fun, and we’ll be going again next year.”
Contact Brooke Borba at 892-6187, ext. 24, or firstname.lastname@example.org