The largest naturalization ceremony ever held for a single ethnic group will highlight the first HispanaFest in Southern California, organizers said.
About 4,000 Latinos will be sworn in as U.S. citizens on the second day of the festival, scheduled for Sept. 15-16, said festival Chairman Ernest Osuna.
The massive swearing-in ceremony will be held at Weingart Stadium on the campus of East Los Angeles College in Monterey Park.
U.S. District Judge Manuel L. Real will administer the oath of citizenship to the people, who Immigration and Naturalization officials say come from 17 Latin American countries, including Mexico, El Salvador, Panama and Brazil.
Donald Looney, deputy district director of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, said large swearing-in ceremonies are not uncommon in Los Angeles. He said because of a huge backlog of applications, many of the ceremonies often include as many as 3,000 people.
Looney, however, confirmed that the HispanaFest citizenship ceremonies would be the largest ever for a particular ethnic group.
After the hourlong ceremony, Osuna said the new citizens will be invited to participate in the annual Sept. 16 East Los Angeles Parade, which commemorates Mexican Independence Day. The parade was delayed one week this year to coincide with HispanaFest, he said. The parade begins at 1:30 p.m.
"The purpose of HispanaFest is to bring about greater understanding and concern of Hispanic people during National Hispanic Heritage Week," which President Bush has proclaimed for Sept. 11-17, Osuna said.
The festival begins Sept. 15 with a HispanaFest breakfast at the downtown Los Angeles Hyatt Regency. Olivia Manzo, who is helping to coordinate the 8:30 a.m. breakfast, said about 600 invitations have been sent out to Los Angeles community leaders as well as various schools, churches and social organizations.
Manzo said an additional 200 invitations have been set aside for people who will be participating in the naturalization ceremony.
The day will end with a fund-raising dinner for the Hispanic Scholarship Program of HispanaFest. A festival organizer, Lupe Ramos, said proceeds from the $150-a-plate dinner will go toward scholarships for Latino students wanting to attend East Los Angeles College. The dinner begins at 5:30 p.m. at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Los Angeles,
Osuna said that celebrated Garfield High School teacher Jaime Escalante will be honored at the dinner for his achievements in the teaching field.
Organizers had planned to hold a rally in Oxnard on Sept. 14 promoting the development of reading and writing skills among young Latino students. Osuna, however, said plans fell through for the project because organizers could not guarantee that First Lady Barbara Bush, the national spokeswoman on literacy, would attend.
Osuna, vice president of the California Bicentennial Foundation for the U.S. Constitution, said he is volunteering his services to organize and promote HispanaFest.
For more information on HispanaFest, call (213) 461-6307.