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. In Los Angeles, California, about 5 million people identify as Latinx. Mexican Independence Day is observed all over the city, from Olvera Street (home to the authentic Mexican marketplace) to Long Beach.

That five Central American countries—Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua—that 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, typically occupying more than 100 pages of its annual guide. One of the highlights is the annual Hola México Film Festival, showcasing 20 Mexican films every year. In 2020, the event will be held virtually via the Spanish-language streaming service PANTAYA, from September 11 to 12. It will feature five categories: México Ahora (new releases of any genre), Documental (documentary), Hola Niños (animation), El Otro México (narratives that challenge the status quo), and Nocturno (bizarre or scary films).

The DCA's September calendar would normally be packed with themed art exhibits, storytelling events, workshops, family festivals, and concerts happening across various LA venues. In 2019, actor John Leguizamo delivered a hilarious and uncensored historical narrative called "Latin History for Morons" and Marco Antonio Solís played at the Hollywood Bowl. However, the organization has not announced any events for 2020.

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. In 2020, the Mexican Independence Day Parade and Festival has been canceled.

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. In 2020, Fiesta Patrias has been canceled.

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