Passaic Celebrates First Mexican and Bolivian Parades

Go to Diario de México to see more photos and videos of the Mexican Independence Day festivities from Gery Vereau.

Go to Diario de México to see more photos and videos of the Mexican Independence Day festivities from Gery Vereau.

Passaic, the most Mexican of all of the Garden State’s cities, enjoyed a jubilant and festive atmosphere during the main day of celebrations surrounding Mexico’s independence, as Consul General in New York Diego Gómez-Pickering called on his compatriots to hold their head high and be proud of their country.

“Mexico does not forget you, especially the ones who have left and have not returned. We only ask you to never put your head down, to always hold it high, to be proud to be Mexican under any circumstance,” said the consul.

The flag-raising ceremony was held at the Passaic municipality’s esplanade by Consul Gómez-Pickering, who was joined by City Council President Gary Schaer – representing Mayor Alex Blanco, whose mother is ill – and other personalities and guests.

On the minds of many Mexicans was the U.S. presidential election in which Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will face off, which led Pablo Gutiérrez, grand marshal of the parade, to call on Mexican Americans to register and vote on Nov. 8 to defend the rights of their compatriots who are being attacked by the rhetoric of Republican candidate Trump.

“It is not just the U.S. presidency that’s at stake but also state legislatures, the federal Congress and the Supreme Court justices, where the future of the Mexican ‘raza’ in this country will be decided,” said Gutiérrez.

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Mexicans from all over the U.S. joined the celebration, including Angélica Varela, a Puebla native who lives in the township of Warminster, in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

“This is my first time in this parade, and I came with my husband and my two children. He is also here for the first time, participating as a dancer with Los Chinelos. Passaic is the city where it feels the most Mexican of anywhere in the state, and that’s why we’re here,” she said.

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Afro-Bolivian Dances

[Below are excerpts of two storiesalso by Gery Vereau, published in Reporte Hispano, about the first Bolivian Parade in Passaic. Photos by Gery Vereau]

For more photos from the Bolivian Parade by Gery Vereau go to Reporte Hispano.

For more photos from the Bolivian Parade by Gery Vereau go to Reporte Hispano.

Hundreds of Bolivian dancers, most of them New Jersey residents, presented their country’s traditional dances at the first Bolivian Parade in Passaic. (…) Andean dancers displayed their extraordinary, handmade traditional costumes and showed off the richness of their culture.

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Maria Metzler (Photo by Gery Vereau via Reporte Hispano)

Maria Metzler (Photo by Gery Vereau via Reporte Hispano)

A tall, white California native who speaks Spanish like a “gringa,” Maria Metzler, has spent 10 years dancing “la morenada” like the best of them. The Andean dance is part of the culture of the African slaves in Bolivia.

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She did not know anyone from Bolivia, but she introduced herself to Los Caporales de San Simón USA-NJ, one of the traditional Bolivian traditional dance troupes in the state. They took her in warmly. “I learned to dance ‘Bolivian’ here in New Jersey,” she said.

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Enrique Salazar, grand marshal of the Bolivian parade in Passaic and the director of the Los Caporales de San Simón group, said that the “morenada” was originated by African slaves who worked in Bolivia’s mines.

“The costume’s bottom part is shaped like a barrel, which represents them when they were slaves,” said Salazar. “These are flown in from Bolivia and are changed every year. Their cost fluctuates between $250 and $350, and each dancer pays for their own.”

According to the 2012 census in Bolivia, nearly 16,329 citizens identified themselves as Afro-Bolivian.

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The first Bolivian Parade in Passaic, in which a number of dancers belonging to several troupes participated, was organized by the Centro de Residentes Bolivianos de Nueva Jersey (Bolivian Center of Residents in the State of New Jersey), and dedicated to the memory of the late Bolivian educator Jaime Escalante, who taught in California and is one of the most renowned Hispanics in the U.S.

Jersey City is the center of the Bolivian community, and the country’s independence day is celebrated there every year on Aug. 6 with a colorful parade. Nearly 10,000 Bolivians currently live in the Garden State.


Latinos Celebrate at Monmouth Festival

[Below are excerpts of another story published in Reporte Hispano, about the 12th annual Latino Festival of Monmouth County]

(Photo via Reporte Hispano)

(Photo via Reporte Hispano)

Once again, the Hispanic community in Monmouth County held its traditional Latino Festival in the township of Freehold.

Attracting a larger crowd than in previous years, the festival’s music, dances, cultural groups and delicious dishes offered a small sample of the richness of Hispanic culture.

The seven-hour display of music and culture also featured information tables about services and businesses available in the area, as well as inflatable games for children and activities for the whole family.

“The festival brings members of the community an opportunity to learn about the wide variety of services and volunteer organizations operating in the Monmouth County area. It’s the time in which the community becomes one as they share the festivities,” said Julia López, from the parade’s organizing committee.

For his part, Lázaro Cárdenas, from the Latino Action Network, pointed out that the event takes place within the context of Hispanic Heritage Month, celebrated throughout the U.S. from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15.

Cárdenas said that the growth of the Latino community in the county has allowed events such as this one to receive more attention and support on the part of elected officials. As an example, he mentioned that, this year, the sheriff and the county’s Board of Chosen Freeholders took part in the parade, as well as the mayor of Freehold.

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