Wind from the Delaware River whipped through crowds of people, some dressed in traditional Mexican garb while others simply wore jeans and T-shirts. The breeze flowed through tents and stands filled with crafts, jewelry and clothing, and carried the alluring smell of traditional Mexican food to every nose in the Great Plaza at Penn’s Landing.
On Sept. 11, the 17th annual Mexican Independence Day Festival was the final stop of the 11 festivals in the PECO Multicultural Series. The Mexican Cultural Center of Philadelphia organizes this event every year to celebrate Mexican independence and to put the Mexican community of Philadelphia under a magnifying glass. The event attracts more than 20,000 people every year with its growing list of attractions. This year, musical groups AK-7, Mariachi Flores, Ballet Folklórico Acapulco, Fuego Nuevo and many more took the stage, captivating the audience with every move they made.
“We work together with the Mexican Consulate of Philadelphia so we can bring all the Mexican community together in one day,” Cesar Viveros said. Viveros is the president of the board of directors of the Mexican Cultural Center, an organizer of the festival and a mural artist in Philadelphia and Camden, N.J. The goal is to bring not only the Mexican community, but the entire community of Philadelphia together to take a closer look at a specific and unique community of Mexicans.
Viveros discussed how many of the Mexican immigrants in Philadelphia come from Puebla, Mexico. While there is a large Mexican community in South Philadelphia, the population is spread out all over Philadelphia. The Independence Day festival serves to showcase Mexican culture and celebrations and also has been a traditional gathering and reunion of all Mexican and Latino communities in the Philadelphia area.
Viveros added that many Mexican restaurants are eager to bring special dishes from their kitchens to the white tents lined up at the Great Plaza. One traditional Mexican treat is elote, a corn on the cob that is smothered in mayonnaise and sprinkled with cotija cheese and seasonings. This popular Mexican street food, served at the restaurant Mexico on the square’s stand, as well as many other traditional foods appeared at the festival.
In addition to getting a taste of Mexican cuisine, festival-goers could visit various tents with traditional Mexican crafts, clothing and jewelry for sale. There were also arts-and-crafts tents where children could create replicas of Mexican artwork and clay sculptures.
Mexican Independence Day celebrates Mexico’s independence from Spanish rule. It is celebrated every year on Sept. 16 with a celebration called “El Grito.” The El Grito celebration at Penn’s Landing demonstrated the past and present of Mexican traditions, as people across at least three different generations took part in the day’s festivities. Cinco de Mayo is commonly mistaken for Mexico’s day of independence, but it commemorates a particular battle in the state of Puebla. It is only a regionally celebrated holiday, while Mexican Independence Day is the most important holiday in Mexican culture.