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Honoring Mexico
By Rupa Shenoy | Daily Herald Staff

Adamari Donato,4, of West Chicago keep her eyes on West Chicago's Mexican Heritage parade.


Tanit Jarusan | Staff Photographer

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Published: 9/15/2007 12:28 AM

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The country that produced nearly half of West Chicago's population will be honored this weekend during the city's annual Mexican Independence Day Celebration.

Although smaller in recent years, the event continues to draw crowds of people who come to mark Mexico's independence from Spain by enjoying a colorful parade and music.

"Everything was laid out for somebody to do and they dropped the ball, so the city called me and asked if I would pick it up," said Tomas Aviles, a West Chicago real estate agent who has taken a leading role in organizing the celebration for the past four years.

Before that, the event was organized by the West Chicago Chamber of Commerce and Industry. In all, the celebration is about 15 years old.

This year, Mayor Mike Kwasman will headline the procession, which begins at 2 p.m. at the intersection of Main and Washington streets in West Chicago's downtown.

From there, the parade travels to Wilson Street, then Joliet Street, ending at the intersection of Joliet and Augusta streets.

The parade will include children clothed in traditional garb performing country dances. It still has not been determined whether one of the popular annual features, horses, will be in the parade. One of their riders is getting married Saturday, Aviles said.

"We don't know how prepared he's going to be on Sunday," he said.

Festivities will kick off at Joliet and Augusta streets at 4 p.m., with a performance of El Grito -- the name of the yell that signals Mexican independence. Bells will be rung and the Mexican national anthem will be played.

Then two deejays will take over, playing Latin music for dancers who are expected to be twisting and twirling until 7 p.m.

Unfortunately, there won't be food this year.

"This is all I could set up in five weeks," Aviles said.

West Chicago is the local hub of the Latino community, having long been home to a large Hispanic population. Mexicans began migrating to the town in the mid-1800s, far before the city's name was West Chicago, to work on the railroads.

Later, the city grew as industries settled there. Those industries brought in successive waves of Latinos to work in their factories. Today, Mexicans continue to immigrate to the town.

Consequently, West Chicago's Mexican community is somewhat unique among the suburbs in that it is a rich mix of immigrants and families that have been in this country for generations. For years, the Independence Day Celebration has symbolized their commitment and attachment to Mexico, even as they grow new roots in the United States.

Aviles hopes that next year, with considerable advance planning, the event can be a three-day festival.

If you go

What: West Chicago Mexican Heritage Celebration

When: Sunday

• Parade steps off at 2 p.m. Sunday from Main and Washington streets in West Chicago's downtown.

• Celebration from 4 to 7 p.m. at Joliet and Augusta streets, West Chicago

Cost: Admission is free

Details: (630) 293-5903