By: Andrea Pineda-Salgado
The American flag hangs high in center of the Great Hall at the City College of New York (CCNY), but below, people dressed in bright red and greens, put their hands to their chest as they proudly sing the Mexican national anthem.
On this day, hundreds of people have gathered at the City College of New York to celebrate Mexico’s 209 years of independence.
While many Mexicans have faced hostility from the American government, and ridicule by appropriations of holidays such as Cinco de Mayo, today they disregard these issues in order to embrace and celebrate their culture.
“Not only should we feel pride to be Mexican on this day, but we should feel pride all the time” says Mario Alberto Rojas Magaña, a Mexican folk dance teacher.
Magaña and his dance team had traveled all the way from Puebla, Mexico to New York City, just for this event. Through dance, he is proud to bring a little “warmth” of his Mexican culture to the people living in New York.
Mercedes Nunez was born in Mexico but has been in the U.S. for 23 years. Nunez says she celebrates Independence Day every year and brings her her children to help them understand the importance of their Mexican heritage.
“They do understand they are American,” said Nunez. “But they also understand that their heritage and their mother’s heritage is Mexican so it’s important for them to be here.”
The City College celebration was raucous and joyful. Young and old dressed up, either in Mexican soccer jerseys or traditional, colorful Mexican dresses. Children ran around the hall with their cheeks painted green white and red as a mariachi band played many of Mexico’s most popular traditional songs and people sang along at the top of their lungs.
Every couple of minutes some the mariachi shouted “VIVA MEXICO” and the crowd shouted back “VIVA” recreating the traditional grito, translated as “scream,” done in Mexico to commemorate their Independence Day.
Pride and gratitude could be felt throughout the room, as although they were far from their home, Mexican celebrators were grateful to be able to celebrate such a sacred holiday underneath the American flag.