The Mexican flag, carried carefully without touching the floor, dwarfed Marco Negrete, a diplomatic attaché from the Mexican Consulate General in San Francisco, as he carried it onto the stage in Richmond’s Restaurante la Revolución.
From the stage, Negrete stood before the band’s instruments, and gazed out at hundreds of people who had gathered from all over the Bay Area to celebrate El Grito de Dolores – Mexican Independence Day.
“¡Mexicanos!” he yelled. “¡Vivan los héroes que nos dieron la patria!” – “Long live the heroes who gave us our country!”
As the audience cheered, he listed off national heroes: “¡Que viva Hidalgo! ¡Que viva Morelos! ¡Que viva Josefa Ortiz de Dominguez! ¡Vivan Aldama y Matamoros! ¡Viva la independencia nacional! ¡Que Viva México!”
On September 16, 1810, Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla and fellow conspirators rang the church bell in the town of Dolores, gathering the townsfolk and declaring the need for liberty from Spanish rule. September 16 is now widely celebrated in Mexico and the United States. The co-owner of Restaurante la Revolución, Martin Gonzalez, said he started the event – featuring car clubs, horse riding, face painting, bull riding and live music to promote not only his restaurant but also Mexican Independence Day, which he said seems to be forgotten about in Richmond.
“In West Contra Costa the big focus is on Cinco de Mayo,” Gonzalez said.
The event drew hundreds of people, albeit slowly. After lunch, people started showing up into La Revolución’s parking lot.
Car owners from Excandalow, Padrinos and Carnales Car Clubs stood by their rides while people stopped by to admire them. Edwin Cuevas, a member of Padrinos Car Club and owner of a black ‘41 Chevy Deluxe, said he was glad an event for Mexico’s independence was finally being hosted in Richmond.
“Usually we have to go to San Francisco for Mexican Independence Day events,” Cuevas said. “They close 23rd Street for Cinco de Mayo but they don’t do anything for 16 de Septiembre. It’s a pretty good turnout for the first year and a good family event.”
Cuevas also said that the car club had decided on attending this event over the annual Sobrante Stroll that was occurring at the same day.
While adults checked out the cars, children clustered around the mechanical bull ride. Eight-year-old Mely Martinez had mixed feelings about the ride.
“It was fun,” she said. “It was kind of scary. It was fun and crazy.”
Two bands, Banda Corazón Ranchero and los Malitos del Norte, played throughout the day, while Eztli Chicahua, an Aztec dance group, performed to the beat of fast rhythmic drumming.
Roberto Alvarado, one of the leaders of the San Leandro-based Eztli Chicahua, said he was happy that more attention was being paid to Mexico’s independence.
“It’s really great that people are celebrating the day of independence,” he said, “so they won’t forget about these dances and that we have survived.”
Jael P. Myrick, who is running for Richmond City Council, walked around the parking lot, greeting passers-by and handing out flyers promoting his run for city council. He said he heard about the event from the 23rd Street Merchants Association.
“I think it’s another great family-friendly activity that sort of defines our culture in Richmond,” Myrick said. “There is a huge sense of family and wanting to take care of one another. I had a lot of fun.”
Myrick also said that Richmond has a lot of these family activities and that there is a sense of community that just doesn’t exist in other cities.
“The part I enjoyed the most was the cars –there was a gray Impala that was so fresh and so clean that it looked like it just popped out of the shower,” Myrick said. ”I wanted to ride the mechanical bull but I didn’t, I don’t think that is becoming of a candidate.”
Gonzalez, the restaurant owner, said that while the event is being hosted in the parking lot this year, he plans to get permission to expand to the street in hopes of getting more vendors to participate and draw a bigger crowd.
“We want to make it an annual thing,” he said. “We want to line the street with vendors.”