Large downtown area closed to traffic as Mexican Independence Day celebrations kick off in Chicago

Chicago
By Chicago 5 Min Read

CHICAGO (WLS) — Street closures were put in place downtown on Friday evening as Mexican Independence Day celebrations kicked off, the city said.

Revelers hoisted Mexico’s flag as they brought traffic in some areas to a standstill, and fireworks came out of a car near South Michigan Avenue and East Ida B. Wells Drive.

OEMC said the Central Business District from Division to 18th streets and from DuSable Lake Shore Drive to Hasted Street is closed due to large car caravans.

By 8 p.m., snow plows and other heavy equipment was on the move, blocking downtown exits off the Kennedy and other expressways and restricting access to the Central Business District.

The streets will be closed intermittently throughout Friday night and early Saturday morning. Officials said their plan does not include raising bridges, which in the past has been controversial.

Revelers were visibly frustrated by the closures, but others were undeterred.

The following access points to downtown will remain open to residents and employees:

-North Halsted and West Division

-North Halsted and West Chicago

-North Halsted and West Washington

-North Halsted and West Madison

-South Halsted and South Jackson

-West Roosevelt and South Union

-18th Street and South State

-18th Street and South Michigan

-18th Street and South Indiana

-West Division and North LaSalle

Chicago police will not require residents to produce a driver’s license or access pass at the above checkpoints.

City officials previously shared a video, asking people to celebrate responsibly, and allow emergency vehicles to come through their celebrations if they have their lights and sirens activated, indicating they are on an emergency response call.

“Don’t forget that any disturbances in the downtown area are going to be sanctioned by the authorities,” said Reyna Torres Mendivil, the consul general of Mexico in Chicago.

Earlier Friday, people celebrating Mexican Independence Day could not have asked for better weather in Chicago on Friday.

People gathered at Benito Juarez Community Academy for an evening of food, live music and traditional dance. It is one of multiple celebrations in the area commemorating Mexico’s independence over Spain. It was hard-fought and won more than 200 years ago.

On Friday morning at Hernandez Middle School in Chicago’s Gage Park neighborhood, families gathered for a vibrant event, celebrating not just the holiday, but also the start of Hispanic Heritage Month.

At Benito Juarez, the party went until 10 p.m., and at 9 p.m., everyone gathered for the traditional “Grito de Independencia,” remembering the battle cry and call to arms that would eventually lead to Mexican independence.

“It is amazing, especially when it brings back our heritage and where we come from, so we will be showing a little bit of our culture, folklore dances and a little bit of the history as well,” said Sofia Fierro with the Mexican Cultural Committee.

The event was billed as a family-friendly gathering, and an alternative to some of the impromptu downtown celebrations in recent years that have caused traffic gridlock.

In Pilsen, it is the first time since before the pandemic, about three years, that they’ve been able to have a full-scale celebration.

“This is how we kind of want to show it off to other people like, hey, this is our culture. This is our place. This is our language. This is our food,” said Marvin Lopez, who lives in Little Village.

At noon on Saturday, hundreds of thousands of people in Little Village will gather for the annual Mexican Independence Day Parade, which is the signature event.

“It’s just a moment to enjoy and look back of how we had a lot of hard times, and how hard we’ve come to get to this point,” said Ace Gil, another Little Village resident.

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