Activities commemorate Independence Day and Hispanic Heritage Month.



Several activities were scheduled for this weekend to celebrate Mexico’s Independence Day.

In addition to the annual dances and gatherings, a group of concerned residents is leading a neighborhood cleanup to benefit the city’s west side.

Juan M. Hernandez Jr., a self-described community activist, said he is working with members of the South Bend Police Department to lead a “Manos Ayudando” or “Helping Hands” cleanup with area Latino high school students on Saturday morning.

Sept. 15 is doubly significant because it marks the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month, commemorating Hispanic cultural contributions to the United States.

The cleanup began at St. Mary’s Church on Sample Street with help from the city in the form of trucks, bags, gloves and water. Assisted by area businesses that cater in part to Latinos, their outreach committee has sought to become a medium between the Latino population and the police department. The cleanup was also sponsored by the Hispanic Leadership Coalition and the SBPD.

Mexico’s 11-year fight for independence began in the early morning hours of Sept. 16, 1810, when the parish priest of a small central Mexico town summoned its people to fight against the Spanish.

What he cried to the people is known as “El Grito” or “The Cry,” commemorated annually with words from the president of Mexico at midnight on Sept. 16.

At least eight Latin American countries found their freedom in September.

Five of them — Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica — celebrate it on Sept. 15.

Other activities planned for Saturday were the following:

Eliud Villanueva, director of the Spanish-language radio station Sabor Latino, 98.1 FM, said the nonprofit organization is holding its annual celebration of Mexico’s Independence Day at two South Bend restaurants.

Taste of Mexico, at 2637 W. Western Ave., South Bend, and Nuevo Tijuana Mexican Restaurant, at 1116 S. Main St., South Bend, are leasing their dance floors for the annual dance with live bands and the crowning of a queen.

The ceremonies began at 7 p.m., with the traditional “Grito” at midnight, heard live from Mexico City.

The Hidalgo Community Center of Goshen sponsored the start of Hispanic Heritage Month with an event of authentic Mexican arts and crafts.

Hailing from the state of Hidalgo in Mexico were a variety of artists, performers, and artisans including the professional Mexican Folklore ballet Macuilxochitl; the Mariachi Band Santa Cecilia; and makers of traditional handmade silver jewelry. Performances were at the Elco Theater, 400 South Main St., Elkhart.

El Palenque Mexican Restaurant in Elkhart held a celebration of Independence Day with live bands, Mariachi Esmeralda and the Folkloric Group of Elkhart, followed by a DJ.