Crowds flock to South Chicago Mexican Independence Day Parade: ‘This is a day we get to celebrate our culture’

Although overshadowed by the popular Little Village Mexican Independence Day Parade, held two weeks ago, the one in South Chicago claims to be Chicago’s oldest.

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A mariachi band plays music atop a float Sunday during the South Chicago Mexican Independence Day Parade on the Southeast Side.

A mariachi band plays music atop a float Sunday during the South Chicago Mexican Independence Day Parade on the Southeast Side.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Culture, language and excitement. That’s what brought 11-year-old Giselle Gutierrez to Chicago’s oldest Mexican Independence Day Parade, held in South Chicago.

“I’m excited,” Gutierrez said. “This is a day we get to celebrate our culture and our language, and express our feelings,” she said.

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Thousands of others clearly agreed as they gathered along Commercial Avenue from 88th to 100th streets on a hot and sunny Sunday.

“¡Viva México!” yelled one man atop one of the caballos bailadores, traditional Mexican dancing horses. Onlookers could be seen admiring the chinelos, traditional costumed dancers.

Dancers perform during the South Chicago Mexican Independence Day Parade on the Southeast Side on Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022.

Dancers perform during the South Chicago Mexican Independence Day Parade on the Southeast Side on Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Although overshadowed by the popular Little Village Mexican Independence Day Parade, held two weeks ago, the one in South Chicago claims to be Chicago’s oldest.

The parade dates back to the late 1930s in one of the city’s first Mexican immigrant communities, on the Southeast Side. The now eight-decade-old parade was begun by Chicago’s oldest Mexican Catholic parish, the city’s Our Lady of Guadalupe church, according to the Southeast Chicago Historical Society.

The official holiday, Sept. 16, marks the date Mexico gained independence from Spain.

Mayoral challenger Ald. Ray Lopez (15th) said Sunday at the parade, “It’s truly an honor to be part of an eight-decade-long tradition in the city of Chicago celebrating Mexican heritage and Mexican independence.”

Members of the parade make their way down South Commercial Avenue during the South Chicago Mexican Independence Day Parade on Southeast Side on Sunday.

A float makes its way down Commercial Avenue Sunday during the South Chicago Mexican Independence Day Parade.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Lopez said the family-oriented parade was a welcome change from the “chaotic celebrations” over the last few days —as caravans of cars celebrating Mexican independence flocked into downtown.

Saturday night, police took the rare step of shutting down streets entering the Loop to discourage revelers from clogging streets. The night before, two people were shot and one person was carjacked during the festivities.

“To see (a celebration) that is so family and ethnic focused, that’s going to be peacefully done and celebrate who we are, it’s just inspiring to no end,” Lopez said.

Grand marshal Linda Perez, a Cook County Circuit Court judge, led the festivities as the parade headed south. Retiring Ald. Susan Sadlowski Garza (10th) waved to the crowds.

People without Mexican heritage also flocked to the parade. Cynthia Scott has lived in the neighborhood 10 years. “We just come to enjoy the festivities,” she said.

Alex Hernandez has been attending the parade for years and has in-laws in the neighborhood. “I come here for the tradition, the culture,” he said.

Parade-goers wave flags along South Commercial Avenue during the South Chicago Mexican Independence Day Parade on the Southeast Side, Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022.

Paradegoers wave flags Sunday along Commercial Avenue during the South Chicago Mexican Independence Day Parade.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Members of an honor guard make their way down South Commercial Avenue during the South Chicago Mexican Independence Day Parade on Southeast Side on Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022.

An honor guard marches down Commercial Avenue Sunday during the South Chicago Mexican Independence Day Parade.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Parade-goers wear and wave flags during the South Chicago Mexican Independence Day Parade on the Southeast Side on Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022.

Parade watchers wear and wave flags Sunday during the South Chicago Mexican Independence Day Parade.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

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