Mexican Independence Day Parade puts heritage on display in Little Village

The parade landed on the holiday for the first time in its 26 years, bringing out more spectators after bad weather and COVID had dampened the event in recent years.

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Un participante del desfile ondea una bandera mexicana durante el Desfile del Día de la Independencia de México a lo largo de la Calle 26 en La Villita.

A parade participant waves a Mexican flag during the Mexican Independence Day Parade along 26th Street in Little Village on Saturday.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Kimberly Cruz has never missed Little Village’s Mexican Independence Day Parade — and she doesn’t plan to.

Cruz, along with her 4-year-old son, Leo, and the rest of their family, found a spot to watch the festivities on Saturday just feet away from Nuevo Leon Bakery on 26th Street — where she used to get pan dulce when she was younger — and a few blocks from where she grew up.

While she said the music is her favorite part of the parade, she has made sure to bring her son every year since he was born so that he stays connected to his heritage.

“It’s important for him to know that you should be happy about your culture and where your roots are from,” said Cruz, now a Bridgeport resident. “This is where my home is, and I will never forget that, and I will never let my babies forget that.”

“I’m just happy to be where my roots are at.”

Kimberly Cruz y su hijo Leo, de 4 años, posan para una fotografía durante el Desfile del Día de la Independencia de México del sábado.

Kimberly Cruz and her 4-year-old son, Leo, pose for a photo at Saturday’s Mexican Independence Day Parade.

Violet Miller/Sun-Times

They were among thousands of attendees gathered in Little Village Saturday afternoon for the 26th edition of the annual parade.

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For the first time since its inception, the parade was held on the actual anniversary of the day Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla gave his El Grito de Dolores speech, urging his parishioners to fight for Mexico’s independence from Spain 213 years ago.

The theme for the 2023 parade was “Tu Mexico, Tu Chicago,” with participants and floats representing the different states of Mexico to highlight the variation within the broader culture. Along with these came the staples of the parade, such as caballos bailadores, or dancing horses.

The celebration kicked off at its usual spot under the Little Village Arch, filling the nearly two-mile route to Kostner Avenue in a flurry of flags. Organizers said they expected nearly 400,000 people to attend, between participants and attendees, making it one of the largest events celebrating the holiday in the Midwest.

Los asistentes al desfile saludan durante el Desfile del Día de la Independencia de México en La Villita.

Paradegoers wave during the Mexican Independence Day Parade in Little Village.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

According to Little Village residents Sonny Zavala and Stephanie Gallardo Montano, 26th Street looked a lot more packed than the last few years — which they attributed to COVID and inclement weather.

“It was dead,” Gallardo Montano said.

Stephanie Gallardo Montano y Sonny Zavala visten playeras de México para el Desfile del Día de la Independencia de México el sábado.

Stephanie Gallardo Montano and Sonny Zavala are dressed in the colors of the Mexican flag as they attend Saturday’s Mexican Independence Day Parade.

Violet Miller/Sun-Times

The weather did rain on this year’s parade, as light precipitation had people standing under vendor tents and the awnings of nearby businesses; others deployed umbrellas, some even using flags they brought with to cover themselves.

Gallardo Montano and Zavala said they looked forward to bringing their son, June, onto the street to watch the parade. The last few years had been spent watching it from Zavala’s parents’ home on the parade route due to the inclement weather.

Now, they had a chance to let him experience it in full alongside “familiar faces” they always run into as the parade goes on.

Denise Carrasco-Volk, a Pilsen-born North Sider, came to the parade to watch her daughters perform with Ballet Folklorico de Chicago. Donning a Jalisco dress — traditional Mexican attire — to match her daughters, Carrasco-Volk danced along to the passing groups of musicians and speakers in her “own style.”

A former dancer herself who performed at the Daley Center as a young girl, she said her daughters love performing at the parade, which they have done several times.

She said parents don’t typically dress up when their kids are performing, but their contagious positivity at practice the night before had convinced her.

Denise Carrasco-Volk baila con una falda de Jalisco durante el Desfile del Día de la Independencia de México en La Villita el sábado.

Denise Carrasco-Volk dances on the sidewalk in a Jalisco dress — traditional Mexican attire — during the Mexican Independence Day Parade in Little Village on Saturday.

Violet Miller/Sun-Times

“The kids were just so happy,” Carrasco-Volk said. “It inspired me to celebrate with them. I want to feel happy, too.”

Part of the reasoning also stemmed from losses she suffered in her family this year. She said she wanted to celebrate their lives at the parade as part of her own heritage.

“I’ve been through a lot this year,” Carrasco-Volk said. “[Here] I feel a peaceful happiness.”

Bailarines del Ballet Folklórico de Chicago marchan en el Desfile del Día de la Independencia de México.

Performers with Ballet Folklorico de Chicago march in the Mexican Independence Day Parade.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Elsie Guelespe lleva un sombrero con las palabras “¡Viva México!” durante el Desfile del Día de la Independencia de México.

Elsie Guelespe wears a hat with the words “Viva Mexico!” on it during the Mexican Independence Day Parade.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Los vaqueros montan a caballo en el desfile por la Calle 26 en el barrio de La Villita.

Cowboys ride horses in the parade along 26th Street in the Little Village neighborhood.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Dos niños entretenidos durante el Desfile del Día de la Independencia de México.

One child entertains another during the Mexican Independence Day Parade on Saturday.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Un Chinelo interactúa con la multitud durante el Desfile del Día de la Independencia de México a lo largo de la Calle 26.

A Chinelo dancer interacts with the crowd during the Mexican Independence Day Parade along 26th Street.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Los espectadores toman videos durante el Desfile del Día de la Independencia de México.

Spectators take videos during the Mexican Independence Day Parade.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Una participante en el desfile baila en una carroza durante el Desfile del Día de la Independencia de México.

A parade goer dances on a float during the Mexican Independence Day Parade along 26th Street in the Little Village neighborhood.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Un participante le da la mano a los niños durante el Desfile del Día de la Independencia de México.

A parade marcher shakes hands with children during the Mexican Independence Day Parade.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

El alcalde de Chicago, Brandon Johnson, y la presidenta de la Junta del Condado de Cook, Toni Preckwinkle, saludan a los espectadores durante el Desfile del Día de la Independencia de México a lo largo de la Calle 26 en el vecindario de La Villita.

Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle wave to spectators during the Mexican Independence Day Parade along 26th Street in the Little Village neighborhood on Saturday.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Un perro con sombrero durante el Desfile del Día de la Independencia de México.

A dog wears a hat for the Mexican Independence Day Parade.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Pedro Quiñones baila mientras saluda a los asistentes al Desfile del Día de la Independencia de México a lo largo de la Calle 26.

Pedro Quinones dances while greeting paradegoers during the Mexican Independence Day Parade along 26th Street on Saturday.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Los espectadores en el techo de Los Mangos para ver el Desfile anual del Día de la Independencia de México a lo largo de la Calle 26 en La Villita.

Spectators stand on the roof of Los Mangos to watch the annual Mexican Independence Day Parade along 26th Street in Little Village.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Los asistentes al desfile ondean banderas durante el Desfile del Día de la Independencia de México el sábado.

Paradegoers wave flags during the Mexican Independence Day Parade on Saturday.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

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