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EAST CHICAGO — Cloudy skies and breezy conditions couldn't drown out the bright colors and joyful spirit of the 65th edition of East Chicago's Mexican Independence Day Parade that kicked off from Block Stadium and traveled down city streets to reach its destination of Michigan Avenue and Guthrie Street.

The parade and festival that followed afterward at Jeorse Park Beach were hosted by Union Benefica Mexicana, a local organization that strives to keep Mexican culture and traditions alive.

The festival included dancers, music, food and a traditional El Grito call later in the evening as a proclamation of independence.

The celebrations were held on the eve of Sept. 16, which marked the start of a Mexican revolution against Spanish rule in 1810.

There were 70 parade entries, but some had more than one vehicle, making for a long parade that had music, horses and no shortage of businesses and politicians, including U.S. Rep. Peter Visclosky, D-1st.

There was plenty of high-energy music and Mexican flags on hand as enthusiastic spectators lined the parade route.

Among the viewers was Alejandra Bolanos, 22, who took in the action from her usual spot as she sat with her dog, Choco, on the steps of her house on Parrish Avenue.

"I love watching how everybody gets so excited about learning about the Mexican culture or seeing all the different colors that are incorporated into the parade," Bolanos said.

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Rosemary Alvarez, 73, grew up in East Chicago but now resides in Munster.

She came to the U.S. from Mexico as a young girl and called the East Chicago celebration "a beautiful tradition."

She had been to the East Chicago parade in the past but not for a long while and stood out by holding a large red, green and white Mexican flag made of silk.

"This flag is an original from Mexico," Alvarez said.

Ernesto Zamora, of Hammond, was one of a large number of participants who rode horses in the parade.

The 14-year-old said he likes to come each year to show off his horse, Simba, and "all the cheering and just making people smile and all the pictures that they take with me."

But Zamora said he also understands that in addition to all of the fun, the parade is important as a remembrance "for those people who fought in our war."

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