Mexican Independence Day celebrated in Sonoma

  • Omar Gallardo, center, and Aztec dance troupe Danza Azteca Xantotl dance in a circle with audience members during Fiesta Patrias at the Sonoma Plaza, in Sonoma, Calif., on September 15, 2013. (Alvin Jornada / The Press Democrat)

Aztec and Mayan dancers set off a day-long celebration of Mexico's independence from Spain on Sunday in the Sonoma Plaza with drum beats and incense.

The ceremony was the first in an afternoon full of the colors, dances and rhythms from various regions of Mexico on the eve of Mexican Independence Day.

At least 1,200 people filled the plaza, such as Dominican University psychology major Sandy Torres, 21, of Sonoma and her younger sister Esme, 6, part of the Danza Azteca Xantotl group of Santa Rosa.

Fiesta Patrias In Sonoma


"We like to pass the culture down to the little ones," Torres said, giving her sister a smile.

Mexicans at home and abroad start the day before the official Sept. 16 holiday with a celebration called "El Grito," meaning a call or a cry. It's an echo of the call to war by Catholic priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, who, according to history, rang the bell 203 years ago that started the war against Spain.

"It is the day the struggle for independence started," said Victor Flores, consul for political affairs with the Mexican Consulate-General in San Francisco.

Flores stood with Sonoma Mayor Ken Brown before the crowd and a phalanx of equestrians wearing various traditional Mexican cowboy attire.

A woman on horseback delivered a U.S. flag to Brown. A man on horseback delivered the Mexican flag to Flores.

The holiday is a day of patriotism and civic ceremony, said Alejandra Cervantes, executive director of Nuestra Voz of Sonoma. The nonprofit leadership group has organized the event in the plaza for the last five years.

"We want people to know — why these colors, why these people, why this food," Cervantes said.

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