Celebrate Mexican Independence Day in Los Angeles

Paper flags hanging over courtyard

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Contrary to popular belief, Mexican Independence Day is not Cinco de Mayo. Rather, it takes place on September 16, warranting celebrations of food, dance, music, and fireworks all over Mexico and the U.S. With about 5 million Hispanics living in Los Angeles alone, the Southern California city puts on several events to celebrate Mexico's Independence Day, from Olvera Street (home to an authentic Mexican marketplace in the very heart of the city) to Long Beach.

That five Central American countries—Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua—also declared their independence on September 15 has led the U.S. to dedicate an entire month to Hispanic heritage. National Hispanic Heritage Month runs from September 15 to October 15 and stirs up many a fiesta in the Latinx capital of LA. Many events have been altered or canceled in 2020, so check details below and websites of the organizers for more information.

Olvera Street

The annual Mexican Independence Day celebration at Olvera Street's plaza in El Pueblo includes live music, folk dancing, carnival games and rides, historic displays, authentic cuisine, and exhibit booths at El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument. Known as the "birthplace of Los Angeles," this neighborhood is where LA's Latinx culture thrives.

The festival typically spans over two days on whichever weekend is closest to the holiday. On Friday, a lineup of traditional performers take over the gazebo stage at Plaza Kiosko, and for the rest of the weekend, the event expands to Los Angeles Street and Main Street. The event was originally planned for September 12 and 13, 2020, but all events taking place at El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument have been canceled until further notice.

El Grito de Dolores at City Hall and Grand Park

El Grito de Dolores ("the cry of suffering") marked the beginning of the Mexican War of Independence and is reenacted every year with a historic battle cry and bell ringing from the steps of the Los Angeles City Hall. Afterward, a full-day family festival (including piñata making, face painting, and a giant Ferris wheel) takes over DTLA's Grand Park. In years' past, the event has featured Grammy award-winning band Los Tigres Del Norte, Banda La Maravillosa, La Mera Candelaria, and more. All food and art vendors are curated by Mujeres Market, an LA favorite. Check the City of Los Angeles' website for updated information on 2020's event.

Department of Cultural Affairs Events

The Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) celebrates National Hispanic Heritage Month with a multitude of events that typically take up more than 100 pages of its annual guide. No guide—which would normally lay out all the special Latino-themed art exhibits, storytelling events, film screenings, maraca-making classes, family festivals, and concerts happening throughout the month at various LA venues—has been released for 2020. In the past, the calendar has included such events as "Latin History for Morons," a hilarious and uncensored historical narrative by John Leguizamo, and a concert by Marco Antonio Solís at the Hollywood Bowl.

East LA Mexican Independence Day Parade and Festival

One of the longest-running Mexican Independence Day parades in the U.S. is the one that rolls through East Los Angeles, a tradition that's been in effect since 1948. The morning procession, typically taking place on whichever weekend is closest to Mexican Independence Day, is followed by an all-day street festival on Mednik Avenue between Cesar E. Chavez and First Avenues, surrounding the East LA Civic Center. Local dignitaries including the mayor, district supervisors, council members, and state senators all make appearances during the parade, and special guests (like Coleen Sullivan from ABC7 Eyewitness News, Mexican actor Armando Silvestre, and professional boxer Oscar De La Hoya) have been known to attend, too. Check the official Independence Day Parade and Festival website, run by the Comité Mexicano Civico Patriótico, to find out updated information on 2020's event.

Aquarium of the Pacific Baja Splash Cultural Festival

Located on Long Beach's Rainbow Harbor, the Aquarium of the Pacific hosts a special event each year to honor the city's Hispanic heritage. On September 26, 2020, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the 19th annual Baja Splash Cultural Festival will be live-streamed on the aquarium's virtual channels. It will still include the same traditional dancing and performances, bilingual educational programs, and cultural activities—everything but the highly anticipated snacks—but over the web (and, as usual, for free). Tune in on the Aquarium of the Pacific's Facebook page to watch the festivities.

Santa Ana's Fiesta Patrias

In 2019, the City of Santa Ana held one of the largest celebrations of Mexican Independence in the country, Fiesta Patrias. More than 50 vendors served up Mexican favorites on Flower Street, traditional music and dance performances took over two stages, and about 200,000 people piled into the Santa Ana Civic Stadium for themed entertainment. One highlight of the event is Saturday evening's El Grito Ceremony, celebrated in remembrance of the Mexican priest Miguel Hidalgo, who called on residents of the town of Dolores to rise up against the Spaniards on the night of September 15, 1810, sparking the final battle that won Mexico its independence. Check the City of Santa Ana's website for information about Fiesta Patrias in 2020.

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