September 19, 2003

Red, white and green:

A Mexican Independence Day Chronicle

By Mariana Martinez

Young and old alike celebrate Sept. 16. The women are part of the Joy Club for senior citizens: they organize parties and field trips, and have dances on special occasions and they are a part of the Sept. 16 parade.

Monday, September 15.

No school today, the streets are unusually quiet.

The kids enjoy cartoons and video games while they hear a marching band rehearsing, far away. Mothers everywhere are fixing up costumes and adding last minute details while making card box riffles and fake braids to go with the farm worker costumes and bright pink dancing skirts.

Night comes gloriously clear, while millions of Mexicans everywhere go out to the streets to yell “Viva México” walking by food stands, carnival games and merry go rounds. Among the band music and fireworks they all forget for a moment to complain about the economy or poor job security in this country. Because Independence Day is near, a lot of people dress up in typical Mexican outfits and the whole family enjoys a good lotería game or ride on the Ferris wheel. Teenage girls fix up their hair and parade around the carnival, looking for that “cute kid from school” to ask them out to dance.

At midnight the party starts do die down and the lights from the last game come down, till tomorrow.

Street vendors love this holiday, they start preparing for it months in advance because a lot of people by patriotic signs this time of year. They sell colorful Mexican flags, all shapes and sizes; ranging from a 20 cent flags for the car window to huge 3 feet tall flags for the roof of the house, costing about 12 dollars. Tijuana residents say the best flags are sold in the Teniente Guerrero Park, downtown, but the city is so big now people are buying flags and hats and trumpets from street vendors near their place of work or neighborhood. The Guadalupe Virgin is also on some flags, because Mexicans identify her as a part of the identity of the country, more than a religious figure, she is a Mexican icon.

September 16. Families wake up early to start getting ready for the parade. The kids have to be there by nine a clock, completely dressed up.

The streets fill up with children’s murmurs; dressed as fighting farm workers with huge hats or “adelitas” (woman who fought with, and fed the patriots) with toy riffles on their hands. Some girls have the typical “china poblana” dress, with the Mexican flag embroidery all over the huge skirt.

The teachers seem endlessly fixing someone’s costume.

Some schools march in their uniforms, in straight lines and to the beat of the band, the schools show what they can do with military precision -they’ve been rehearsing every day for a month-and in the end, cheerleaders from local high schools show their best work while dancing under the hot summer sun.

Parents take pictures on the sidelines as their kids pass their way on a parade car:

Smile Marcela! fix up your braids honey…

¯Kids, send a kiss to grandma...

¯Enrique, seat still and wave to the crowd...

The parade ends at noon. They end up at México Park where Parents Associations and Club Scouts sell tacos, ice cream and colorful egg shells full of flour: for 50 cents you can break them on someone’s head, just for the thrill of it and run off in to the crowd.

Most kids look tired and sunburned; they take refuge in the shade of old trees while having lemonade or ice cream. When you are a kid, most of your worries can be forgiven by your sweet tooth.

As the sun dips into the ocean, only colorful paper squares remain on the street, as a man slowly sweeps, and remembers why he truly dreads Independence Day.

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