At Olvera Street in Downtown Los Angeles, Mexican Independence Day typically draws large crowds for a vibrant celebration filled with games, dancing and carts of food. But with the coronavirus pandemic still ongoing, the famous street — typically known for its influx of communities all across L.A. — was relatively quiet and empty, a far cry from the typical celebration that takes place on Sept. 16.
“I am surprised that there are not a lot of people here today for Mexican Independence Day.” Javier Gonzalez said. “We have come here a couple of times and there is usually a big crowd for this day, but I guess because of the pandemic nobody wanted to come.”
This week, Mexican Americans across Los Angeles celebrated Mexico’s Independence Day, which is commemorated by a two-day celebration that includes El Grito de Dolores (The Cry of Dolores) on Sept. 15 and Dia de La Independencia (Independence Day) on Sept. 16. While the first day commemorates Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, a priest from the small town of Dolores, Mexico, whose call ignited the beginning of the war against the Spanish, the second day commemorates Mexico’s official independence.
Los Angeles, which according to recent census data has a population of more than 3 million Mexicans, is typically home to numerous city-wide celebrations of the holiday, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, these celebrations have been downsized or even canceled by organizers.
“I came here with my family today and was looking forward to the many things to do here at Olvera Street,” Felipe Rodriguez said. “It is a little disappointing that there is nothing going on here.”
At Olvera Street, El Grito was celebrated Wednesday with speakers, flag presentations and a musical performance, but also pulled disappointing numbers.
Olivia De La Riva, a museum guide at the El Pueblo de Los Angeles, said that visitors are still cautious of crowds due to COVID-19.
“People are unsure about whether or not to attend events because of being around a big crowd of people,” De La Riva said. “It was like this last year at the height of the pandemic and it has continued into this year”
In years past, the street hosted performances and all-day celebrations, and typically, men dressed as Aztec warriors performed and the shops bustled with families from the L.A. area.
Juan Padilla, a museum guide for the America Tropical Interpretive Center, said he was surprised by the lack of celebration in the area.
“There are usually Aztec warriors dancing in the square and people in the square watching them,” Padilla said. “I started working here last year, and I am surprised that nothing is going on today.”
Yesterday, crowds were also lacking for El Grito.
The flyer was posted on the El Pueblo website, but unfortunately people were still unaware or afraid to attend the event.
In East Los Angeles, Comité Mexicano Civico Patriótico canceled its annual Mexican Independence Day parade and festival to avoid large gatherings amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The parade was canceled this year and the parade was canceled last year,” Mariluz Gonzalez, a spokesperson for the event, said. “We wanted to wait to be sure and make sure that the community is safe. This celebration draws a big crowd so with that in mind we did not want to draw a big crowd with the pandemic still going on.”
Event organizers said they expect the event to return in 2022.