Celebrating ‘Heroes Who Set Us Free’


Hugo Rivera was so filled with Mexican pride Saturday that he dashed down the streets of downtown Santa Ana, waving the red, white and green flag amid a crowd of thousands and a scorching sun.

“It’s a day to show where we came from,” said Hugo, 17, of Santa Ana as he wiped sweat from his forehead.

“I’m proud that we have a community here and even more proud to be a Mexican.”

Hugo was among what police estimated to be a crowd of 100,000 people who took to the streets of downtown Santa Ana in a vibrant--and sweaty--celebration of cultural heritage at a three-day Fiestas Patrias 2000.


The annual fair marks the independence of Mexico, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Chile, Belize and Nicaragua in 1810.

The mercury climbed into the high 90s, but that didn’t stop the partying.

“Everyone is very happy today,” said Beatriz Hernandez, 18, of Tustin, who visited the festival with her mother and sister. “It’s the same feeling you get when it’s the Fourth of July.”

Music blared for blocks as bands played folkloric tunes from both ends of the street fair.

The smell of tortillas and bacon-wrapped hot dogs wafted in the streets, which were filled with food and advertising booths.

Festival-goers waited in long lines at the petting zoo and the basketball hoops.

A parade of floats, dancers and local entertainers decked out in colorful costumes marched down Main Street.

Maria Diaz of Anaheim sat in the shade in front of a furniture store with her son, Carlos, 8, and took the opportunity to educate him about his country’s tradition and history.

“This is the day that Mexico became like here,” she told her son, referring to the United States. “We are celebrating the heroes who set us free.”


The annual celebration, which began in 1988, is expected to draw 300,000 people over the weekend, organizers said.

The fair opens at 10 a.m. today and ends at 10 p.m. with a historical reenactment of “El Grito”--the cry that sparked a key Mexican independence battle--to be performed by Mexican consul Miguel Angel Isidro at 7 p.m. at the main stage on 4th and French streets.