Thousands of Mexican families flocked to East Alisal Street in Salinas on Sunday to celebrate the El Grito Festival from noon to 6 p.m. El Grito, meaning “ the shout”, is used to describe Mexico’s Independence from the Spaniards in 1810. This year's was especially important being the 200th anniversary of Mexico’s Independence. The actual anniversary date is September 16th, but the festival was held on a Sunday to help attract the nearly 40,000 people honoring the event.
Salinas, well known for its large Mexican population, has been hosting the El Grito festival for years. Many of the people came dressed in Mexico’s flag colors of red, white, and green. White tents lined the streets for a mile filled with vendors selling authentic Mexican food and goods. One popular booth selling baked potatoes and corn on a stick had a long line of customers. Large Banda bands playing traditional Mexican music could be heard throughout the festival. When asked why the festival was located on Alisal street, distribution manager for the Salinas Californian paper, Ishmael Nicolas, said, “Back when Salinas was first founded, Alisal Street was the foundation of Main Street where all the main stores were located. My father was a ranchero and did lots of business on this street. It is a very historical area for the Mexican community so it only makes sense that the festival would take place here.”
Many booths were dedicated to teaching the public about Mexico’s history. A worker in one of the booths commented on why the festival was held, “ The festival is all about tradition. These days large companies such as Coors and Bud Light are taking over the Mexican holidays and turning them into something they are not. This festival is to educate the public about Mexico’s heritage and really celebrate our history.” Throughout the day a group dressed in ancestral Mexican garments with large feather headdresses was seen performing traditional Mexican dances and beating drums. The mayor of Salinas, Dennis Donohue, also attended the festival, “ I love it. I think it is terrific and I like the reason for the festival. Salinas has a lot of hardworking people and this festival is a great place to listen to good music, eat good food, and celebrate Mexican history. It is a colored pageantry of the Mexican Culture.” Much of Salinas’ Mexican population attended to show their support. Jose Rodrigez, a student at UC Santa Cruz, spoke highly of the festival, “Different cultures perceive Cinco de Mayo as being the day of independence for Mexico but El Grito is to Mexicans what Cinco de Mayo is to the general public. It’s the day that people should really be celebrating Mexico’s Independence.”