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Pride, Commercialism on Display at Fiestas Patrias

September 12, 2004|Claire Luna | Times Staff Writer

Clowns hawking home loans, logo-adorned balloons and seemingly endless consumer product giveaways -- they all seemed to enhance rather than dilute the Mexican Independence Day pride that filled downtown Santa Ana on Saturday.

Families at the Fiestas Patrias shrugged off the commercialism and said that one of the best things about freedom is freebies.

"It's good for the companies to get the publicity, but it's better for us because we get gifts and we get to feel good about being Mexican," said Alba Garcia, 25, of Tustin. Garcia's 3-year-old daughter, April, was dwarfed by bags bulging with brochures and product samples that hung from her stroller's handles.

The Garcias and thousands of others strolled Fourth Street, while others clustered on shaded sidewalks seeking relief from the day's muggy heat and celebrated the call for independence from Spain by a priest in 1810.

Food booths pulled in a steady flow of customers sniffing out the source of the carnitas-scented air, or looking for the dinner-plate-size pork rinds it seemed every fourth person was holding. There were rides and carnival games, and flags of Latin American nations dangled from street light posts.

Brothers Jose, 34, and Raul Gomez, 22, stopped by the fiesta while visiting from Guadalajara. They said that although the Independence Day celebrations in Mexico are bigger, the one in Santa Ana was impressive.

"It's good to see how much pride Latinos have in their home country, even when they're not living in Mexico anymore," said Jose Gomez. He grinned at two boys pushing a cart full of booty -- including samples of coffee and detergent, and houseplants.

"And it's very Mexican to want a good deal," he said.

The fiesta continues today from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

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