A decorated car parade marks the start of Mexican Independence Day festivities in Philadelphia

In its second year, the parade brings a Mexican tradition to the heart of Philadelphia.

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Cindy "La Mexicana" Díaz greeted the parade outside of City Hall, waving the Mexican flag. (Emily Neil/WHYY)

The rain failed to dampen the parade Sunday, as more than 60 decorated cars made their way up Broad Street and around City Hall to celebrate Mexican Independence Day.

In its second year, the “Desfile de Carros Alegóricos,” or decorated car parade, marked the start of Mexican Independence Day festivities in Philadelphia. The day commemorating Mexico’s independence from Spain is officially celebrated in Mexico from the night of Sept. 15 through Sept. 16.

The Desfile de Carros Alegóricos to celebrate Mexican Independence Day included more than 60 decorated cars. (Emily Neil/WHYY)

Parade organizer Reyna Casarez said a decorated car parade is a tradition in every town and city throughout Mexico, and is an important way to commemorate the leaders who gave their lives for the country’s independence.

“El contexto histórico de Carros Alegóricos tiene que ver para conmemorar que nos hicimos independientes, que somos una nación democrática, y esto va de la mano con nuestra cultura cívica pero también nuestra fiesta. 

Como mexicanos, sin importar el dolor, el trabajo … siempre estamos haciendo pachanga”, dijo Casarez.

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“The historical context of the decorated cars has to do with commemorating that we became independent and that we’re a democratic nation, and that goes hand in hand with our civic culture and also our celebrations.

As Mexicans, regardless of pain and work … we always celebrate,” Casarez said. 

Reyna Casarez (left) organized the ''Desfile de Carros Alegóricos'' for the second year in a row. Shes says part of her motivation is to share the tradition with her daughter, Ellie
Reyna Casarez (left) organized the ”Desfile de Carros Alegóricos” for the second year in a row. Shes says part of her motivation is to share the tradition with her daughter, Ellie. (Emily Neil/WHYY)

The parade included a pickup truck carrying people representing the heroes of the Mexican fight for independence, cars decked out with Mexican flags, and a special trailer that featured the queen of the festivities, Erika Guadalupe Nuñez, executive director of Philly immigrant rights organization, Juntos.

Community members dressed as the important historical leaders who fought for Mexico’s independence. (Emily Neil/WHYY)

Some participants played music of different genres — ranchera, norteño, and rap included — and dressed in traditional outfits.

Guillermo Luna wore a black-and-silver-embroidered suit with face makeup typical of Día de los Muertos celebrations.

Guillermo Luna dressed in honor of Mexican musicians who have died but live on through their music. (Emily Neil/WHYY)

Luna said celebrating Mexican Independence Day outside of Mexico is “really important.” He and his wife brought their children to the parade so that they could experience the tradition, and were happy to see more people in attendance this year compared to last.

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His outfit, Luna said, represented his love for ranchera music, and the Mexican musicians that are no longer alive but live on through their music.

As the cars made their way from 10th Street and Washington Avenue to Broad Street and then City Hall, passersby waved, took photos, and asked bystanders the reason for the celebration.

Cindy “La Mexicana” Díaz, wearing a hand-painted dress from her home state of Guerrero, heralded the parade from the median strip at City Hall, where she waved a Mexican flag as the cars passed by.

Cindy “La Mexicana” Díaz greeted the parade outside of City Hall, waving the Mexican flag. (Emily Neil/WHYY)

Passing on the tradition to the next generation, Casarez said, is an important piece of the parade — along with sharing Mexican culture and art with the city as a whole. More than 15,000 Mexican Americans reside in Philadelphia, according to 2010 U.S. Census data.

“Este es nuestro orgullo: Poder traerles a ustedes algo que a nosotros no solamente nos formó, y nos forma cívicamente, sino que también es un acto de enseñanza y de trabajo en comunidad. Porque aquí nadie se queda afuera”.

“This is our pride: To be able to bring to all of you something that formed us, that forms us civically, and that also is an act of teaching and working in community. Because here no one is left behind.” 

Following the parade, many participants went to Penn’s Landing to join tens of thousands of Mexican American community members at the annual Mexican Independence Festival in the afternoon, hosted by Mexican Cultural Center, and the Consulate of Mexico in Philadelphia as part of PECO’s multicultural series.

Maria del Carmen Díaz (center) and other community leaders pose for a photo during the decorated car parade in honor of Mexican Independence Day on Sept. 10, 2023. (Emily Neil/WHYY)

Valeria Ramírez Siller, press attaché at the Consulate of Mexico in Philadelphia, represented the consulate at the parade and said that having the display of Mexican culture and pride prior to the nearly two-decades running festival at Penn’s Landing is a symbol of the importance of the Mexican American community in Philly and Pennsylvania.

“It shows the presence of Mexico culturally, but also the contributions — the daily economic contributions — that they do to the city and to the state,” Ramírez Siller said.

Casarez said another goal of the parade is to help local businesses advertise from their cars as they make their way through the city, and, eventually, to encourage people from throughout the region to come and see the parade and explore all that Philly’s Mexican American community has to offer.

“Necesitamos alegría, necesitamos motivación, necesitamos seguir trabajando en familia. Y trabajar en familia también es trabajar en comunidad”.

“We need joy, we need motivation, we need to continue to work together as a family. And working as a family is also working in community.” 

The region’s Mexican community has more opportunities to celebrate throughout the month, with upcoming events in Norristown, Allentown, Wilmington, Del., and New Jersey.

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