It was 175 years ago that Spanish forces finally--after an 11-year war--gave up control of Mexico. It may not have the same oomph as the Fourth of July for some of us, but Sept. 16--"16 de Septiembre," as it's officially known--is an important annual event for many Latinos in Orange County.
The Santa Ana Unified School District deserves a salute for recognizing the holiday's meaning to its students. It still doesn't have the popularity of Cinco de Mayo, but it's an opportunity to remind Latino students of their heritage.
Edison Elementary at 2063 Orange Ave. in Santa Ana has celebrated the occasion for years, and will hold the district's biggest event honoring the holiday on Friday. The city is providing a stage, and the nearby Delhi Community Center will bring in entertainment. The annual fiesta usually draws more than 500 people.
"We are 98% Latino in our school," said its outreach counselor, Frank Haydis. "We don't teach it as part of our curriculum, but Mexican Independence is a part of these students' history."
Other district elementary schools holding celebrations include Franklin, Martin, Pio Pico, Walker, Monte Vista and Lincoln. Monday celebrations will take place at Madison and Roosevelt schools, and Carr Intermediate will celebrate on Friday, Sept. 20.
Judith Leon, who teaches bilingual education at Edison, says a major byproduct of the celebration is that "it's very good for community unity. Many of our parents work hard, or have to take care of other children at home and can't always make school activities. This is a good way to draw them in."
At Roosevelt, says school office manager Jose Lozano, not only will students be exposed to folkloric dancers, but there will be special assemblies on Mexican history and geography.
I asked him if the students learned a lot about Mexico through such celebrations.
"Not so much in the past," he said. "But this year we are trying to put more into it for them."
Try the Edison school if you'd like to soak up some of the atmosphere yourself. Said Haydis: "We are a humble school in a humble community, but people ought to come on by. We'll have quite a festive celebration."
Drive-End: It's always sad any time we lose something that's been a rich part of our past. After tonight we must say goodbye to the eight-screen Stadium Drive-In theaters on Katella Avenue in Orange. That will leave the county with only one drive-in operating, Pacific's Hi-Way 39 on Beach Boulevard in Westminster.
The drive-in was a big part of my growing up. Whether parked up front with my mother and my sisters, or in the Passion Pit (the final two rows) with a date, the drive-in provided great times, and now great memories.
I thought about those years Tuesday night when I interviewed people parked in line waiting for the Stadium Drive-In to open just before dark. At the head of the vehicle train was Beverly Hathaway, working a crossword puzzle while waiting for the ticket booth to open.
Actually, she's not a regular drive-in visitor, she told me, and didn't even know the drive-in was closing this week. She explained that her husband, Dennis Hathaway, was out of town, and it was hot, so she just felt like taking in a movie. I thought to myself: Good for her. It's always great to me when I meet someone who knows how to have a good time without a crowd.
Kent and Pam Sandi--with Pam behind the wheel--had brought their 3-year-old son Shane to see "Jack," with Robin Williams.
The Sandis have long been regulars at the drive-in; you could find them there almost any Tuesday night. That's when tickets are just $3 each.
"It used to be $5 a carload on Tuesdays," Pam Sandi explained to me. "Those were great nights."
The Sandis said they like the drive-in because it's a place where their son can be himself, without bothering other viewers, which isn't always the case with a 3-year-old at an indoor theater.
The Sandis readily agreed with me that the Stadium Drive-In would be greatly missed. "We just love it," Pam Sandi said.
Tonight is not only the final night for shows, but a groundbreaking for the new Stadium Promenade that will replace it. That one will have 25 movie screens (all indoors.)
Waiting for Art: Earlier this week, in a column about the North Orange County Community Concert series, I mentioned that the only other such series in Orange County is in the gated community of Leisure World in Laguna Hills.
Joan Nugent, co-president of the Leisure World group, called to tell me about its success: There's a two-year waiting list just to become members, she said. I had to chuckle listening to her discussion about occasional problems. For example, it's a part of life in a senior housing community that people die each year. Nugent said some surviving widows or widowers continue to try to buy two tickets to the concert series, unwilling to give up their loved one's seat.
"We've had a [hard] time with some, memberships are in such demand," she said.