OXNARD — Mexico's flag was out in force Sunday as parade-goers filled this city's downtown to celebrate in style that nation's independence from Spain--with whoops of excitement, a riot of color and a sense of community.
"This is like the Fourth of July," said Rose Magdaleno, who brought her children Dyamond, 4, and Mychel, 2, to the party. "We have our own little barbecue at home, and then we come out here and have fun with the whole community."
From the parade route, someone boomed out the traditional cry, "Viva Mexico!" Then came a less-traditional response: "Viva America!"
Sunday's parade on C Street marked the second day of Oxnard's five-day Las Fiestas Patrias Mexicanas celebration, a period that will culminate with more shouting Wednesday--which coincides with a gala in Mexico City.
Those shouts commemorate Sept. 16, 1810, when Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, a priest, set off Mexico's war of independence with a rallying speech still recited annually by Mexico's president.
In Oxnard, girls in bright skirts twirled their way down the parade route. A group of classic cars, with bug-eye headlights and bulbous bodies, rolled along the street. Radio station vans piped salsa and mariachi music to the crowd. And the grand marshal, Oxnard boxer Robert Garcia, rode through the streets to cheers from fans and friends.
"He's our world champion. I've been following his career," said Cicilio Flores of Oxnard. "And we're just here to give out support."
A group of Tarahumara Indians, visiting from the Mexican state of Chihuahua, marched in the parade as special guests. The tribe is known for its 100-mile runs--it will field runners for such an upcoming race in Los Angeles--and organizers of the fiesta sponsored a 5K run Saturday in their honor, which will raise money for the Indian community.
This is the fiesta parade's second year, and organizers are proud of its success, said Joe Mendoza, who is overseeing the entire five-day effort. It was time the celebration be open to all Oxnard, he said.
"I tell everyone this, and they're all sick of hearing it," Mendoza said. "We're recognizing our diversity and we're celebrating our commonality."
Johnny and Celi Ordaz's 2-year-old daughter, Nina, so desperately wanted to be part of the action that she nearly joined the parade herself. Her mother gently tugged her back to the sidewalk.
"She really wants those Barbies," she said of Nina's interest in the parade's most curious entry, "Princess Doggy"--a cart in which a family of Chihuahuas dressed in parade finery shared space--and a ride--with a collection of the shapely, plastic dolls.
Nina and her 1-year-old sister, Sabrina, were practiced wavers, happily greeting each parade entry as it moved by.
"We came out to see the kids have fun," Johnny Ordaz said of the kids in elaborate skirts and mariachi suits who marched on the street.
Organizers said the parade was much larger than the one last year and much more inclusive, bringing in more people from throughout the city.
"We're happy," Mendoza said. "In a sense, we're growing up."