HAMMOND — The bright green, white and red colors of the Mexican flag were prominently on display and present on seemingly almost every vehicle entered in a large Mexican Independence Day parade held Sunday afternoon in Hammond.
Sept. 16, 1810, marked the start of Mexico's revolution against Spanish rule.
The parade, hosted by the Hispanics United Government Services (HUGS) Cultural Committee, allowed Region residents to celebrate not only Mexico's independence but also its culture during what is National Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15 through Oct. 15).
The parade that began at Morton High School on Grand Avenue with an ending point of Hessville Park on Kennedy Avenue had a wide assortment of participants that included traditional Mexican dance groups along with local businesses, politicians and classic cars.
Horses also played a large role in the parade and the Mexican music that blared from vehicles and that was provided by a band riding on a trailer contributed to a lively atmosphere.
This marked the fifth installment of the HUGS-sponsored Mexican Independence Day Parade, and co-coordinator Alberto Ochoa said the amount of entries was much larger than usual.
There were an estimated 70 participants this year compared to the 40 entries or so Ochoa said is normal.
One likely reason for a larger turnout is because a popular Mexican Independence Parade that has been a tradition in East Chicago for 65 years was not held for the second year in a row due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Ochoa said he knew of no other similar parades being held in The Region this year.
Ochoa thought the HUGS parade could be held safely, in part because it is an outdoor event.
"The route's long enough where everybody can be spread out," Ochoa said.
One concession made because of the pandemic was that a festival following the parade was not held in Hessville Park.
"This year, because of COVID, we're only having a resource fair," Ochoa said.
He said information was to be available on topics including jobs and housing and that free tacos would be given out while supplies lasted.
Ochoa compared celebrating Mexican Independence to celebrating the Fourth of July.
"It's important for us to remember our roots and remember where we come from and come together as a community to help each other out," Ochoa said.
He said the parade brings out pride in Mexican heritage and helps rekindle memories for those who can't return to Mexico and allows them to celebrate along with the loved ones they can't be with in person.
Some were already seated in their lawn chairs in front of the historic Little Red Schoolhouse at 7205 Kennedy Ave. an hour before the parade started to get a good view.
Among those was Hammond resident Rosa Romero, who hoped to see mariachis and dancers.
Romero's parents came from Mexico and she said the parade provides an opportunity to teach young ones about their background.
"It's nice to see the culture," Romero said.
Melinda Casarez, of South Chicago Heights, also sat near the Little Red Schoolhouse. She has family from Mexico and came to watch the action and support family who were in the parade.
She said parades bring communities together and this particular one allowed people to commemorate Mexican history and ancestry.
"We celebrate every other holiday, why not include this one, as well," Casarez said.
Adriana Sandoval, of Hammond, works for the city and wore a traditional Mexican dress she bought in Mexico as she participated in the parade.
Sandoval likes to see all the smiles and the family atmosphere associated with the parade and also agreed it provides an occasion to teach the younger generation about their heritage.
"It's important for our traditions," Sandoval said. "It's our culture and our men fought for years until they won."
U.S. Rep. Frank J. Mrvan, D-Highland, was among the political figures who took part in the parade.
He said it is wonderful to celebrate different cultures and remarked on how big the parade was compared to its beginnings.
"It's great to come back to my roots here in Hammond where I grew up and to see the growth of this parade," Mrvan said.