Mexican Independence Day Parade puts heritage on display in Little Village

Chicago
By Chicago 7 Min Read

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.”

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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.

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.

Parade goers wave during the Mexican Independence Day Parade along 26th Street in the Little Village neighborhood, Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023. | Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

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.

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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.

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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.”

Performers with Ballet Folklorico de Chicago march during the Mexican Independence Day Parade along 26th Street in the Little Village neighborhood, Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023. | Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

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

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Elsie Guelespe wears a hat that has the words, “Viva Mexico!” on it during the Mexican Independence Day Parade along 26th Street in the Little Village neighborhood, Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023. | Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

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

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Cowboys ride horses during the Mexican Independence Day Parade along 26th Street in the Little Village neighborhood, Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023. | Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

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

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

A kid entertains another kid during the Mexican Independence Day Parade along 26th Street in the Little Village neighborhood, Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023. | Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

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

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

A Chinelo dancer interacts with the crowd during the Mexican Independence Day Parade along 26th Street in the Little Village neighborhood, Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023. | Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

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

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Spectators take videos during the Mexican Independence Day Parade along 26th Street in the Little Village neighborhood, Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023. | Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Spectators take videos during the Mexican Independence Day Parade.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

A parade goer dances on a float during the Mexican Independence Day Parade along 26th Street in the Little Village neighborhood, Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023. | Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

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

A parade goer shakes hands with children during the Mexican Independence Day Parade along 26th Street in the Little Village neighborhood, Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023. | Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

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

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson and Cook County Board Pres. Toni Preckwinkle wave to parade goers during the Mexican Independence Day Parade along 26th Street in the Little Village neighborhood, Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023. | Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

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

A dog wears a hat during the Mexican Independence Day Parade along 26th Street in the Little Village neighborhood, Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023. | Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

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

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Pedro Quinones dances while greeting parade goers during the Mexican Independence Day Parade along 26th Street in the Little Village neighborhood, Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023. | Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

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

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Spectators stand on the roof of Los Mangos to watch the annual Mexican Independence Day Parade along 26th Street in the Little Village neighborhood, Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023. | Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

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

Parade goers wave flags during the Mexican Independence Day Parade along 26th Street in the Little Village neighborhood, Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023. | Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

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

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

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