Traditional food, dance at latin festival

The annual Mexican Independence Day Festival was at Penn’s Landing on Sept. 14.

Ana Flores traveled more than 2,000 miles from her home in Pachuca, Mexico, to Philadelphia.

Flores, the organizer of the annual Mexican Independence Day Festival and executive director of the Mexican Cultural Center, is in her fourth season organizing the festival. The event was held at Penn’s Landing on Sept. 14 for its 20th year to recognize the liberation of Mexico from the influence of the Spanish colonial government in 1810.

The event featured local food vendors, international musicians and the famous recreation of  “El Grito de Dolores” (Cry of Dolores).

The ceremony of “El Grito,” a reenactment of the launching of the Mexican War of Independence, in which the priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla declared his open revolt against the Spanish rule.

“We sing the hymn and it is very emotional for people when [a member] yells ‘¡Viva México!’” Flores said. “It was very touching to see people from different ages tearing up out of emotion.”

The Mexican Cultural Center maintains a goal of holding to tradition and informing the public of Mexican cultural practices and history.  The festival also marked the center’s 20th anniversary of operation after its founding in 1994.

“The solidarity amongst nations is important, so the consulate figures will be present and everyone is welcome,” Flores said.

This year’s festival presented several new additions to the itinerary, including an after party and a fireworks display.

“I have to say I’ve always wanted the fireworks and it really worked out,” Flores said. “And then you realize that all the work we put in for the last six months was worth it and has made an impact.”

Los Gallos, El Zarape and Pacheco Rico, three local Latin American food vendors, helped cater the event. Also featured were two restaurants based out of New York and three more from New Jersey.

Popular Latin menu plates like Cemitas, a Puebla and Mexico originated torta were all at the festival as well. Other popular items included peeled mangos on sticks, frozen piña coladas served in hollowed pineapples and ethnic fruit juices.

This year’s festival featured the “Best Taco in the Delaware Valley” with Philadelphia based food truck, Tacos El Rodeo, taking the title.  The food truck opened in 2012 by Mexico native chef Juan Gasca and his wife Christina, but has gained immense popularity since the opening.

Headlining the musical entertainment was Latin Grammy Award winning Mexican-American band Alacranes Musical.  Other acts included local groups La Conquistadora Banda de Guanajuato, Ballet Folklórico Yaretzi and singer Pedro Villaseñor.  All entertainers displayed cultural pride through passionate performances of expressive Mexican art.

Alfredo Navarro, co-founder of the Ballet Folklórico Yaretzi, one of the entertainers for the festival, said when he teaches his students traditional Mexican folk dancing, it’s all because of his Latin pride.

“It is very important to us to be able to teach the children of the area the roots of where they are from and to give them a way to be a part of their culture,” Navarro said.

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