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‘Fiestas Patrias’ a celebration of independence

9/16/12 Lucas Scisn 3 his father Robert both from Buffalo Grove do some pond skimming for insects fish Fiestas Patrias

9/16/12 Lucas Scisn, 3 and his father Robert, both from Buffalo Grove, do some pond skimming for insects and fish at the Fiestas Patrias celebrating Independence for Mexico at the Greenbelt Cultural Center in North Chicago on Sunday. | Joel Lerner~Sun-Times Media

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About Fiestas Patrias

Some people wrongly think that Cinco de Mayo is Mexico’s Independence Day, when it actually celebrates a battle between Mexican forces and the French and has become a national day to celebrate heritage. Father Miguel Hidalgo is called the father of Mexican independence. He was a Creole priest (son of Spaniards) and was 57 when he made his famous call for freedom.

He was a Catholic priest who taught the villagers around Dolores, Guanajuato, how to cultivate the land and he also built an estate where townspeople could learn about pottery, tanning hides, a blacksmith stable, carpentry and looming. They also sold goods from each of these enterprises.

Hildalgo joined others in a call for independence because of Spanish oppression, and while they planned a revolt for October, they were found out and moved the date to Sept. 16, 1810. He was captured in an ambush the following year. He was relieved of his duties as a priest, sentenced to death and was shot. Ten years later, Mexico became independent on Sept. 21, 1821, according to Inside Mexico Publishing, a cutural heritage Web site that publishes articles on Mexico.

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Updated: October 19, 2012 6:06AM

NORTH CHICAGO — You say you want a revolution, then you should have been at the Greenbelt Forest Preserve Sunday where independence for Mexico and other South American countries was celebrated as “Fiestas Patrias.”

The term means Patriotic Holidays or National Holidays and marks the day, Sept. 16, 1810, when Father Miguel Hidalgo called for Mexico’s independence from the colonial power Spain. “It is celebrated in Mexico like the Fourth of July is celebrated in the United States,” said Susan Hawkins, of the Lake County Forest Preserve District.

Now it also serves as an Independence Day for Belize, Honduras and Guatemala, who fought off colonialism from other European powers. There was authentic food, music, dances, contests and activities for children.

“If you aren’t afraid of raising your cholesterol, try the Mexican corn,” said Tom Geraghty of Deerfield, describing how they cut the corn off the cob and then add mayonnaise, butter and cheese.

“The food is really good, it’s probably more traditional Mexican that you get in a restaurant,” said Geraghty’s son Sam, 12. The food was being prepared and sold by the Light of the World Church of Waukegan. Tom was there with his wife, Georgie, and other children, Clara, 10, Gertie, 8, and Ned, 3.

Clara liked the festival feel of the celebration. “It’s sort of cool, like different races can come together and enjoy themselves,” she said. Georgie was there to help man a booth for Friends of Ryerson Woods.

“We have a program where we are helping Latino families access the vast natural resources we have in Lake County,” she said, including family hikes done in Spanish and other programs.

Angela Orozco, 6, of Waukegan had fun at the Nature Play area near the pond where kids had nets to catch insects and pond life. “I got a small sea shell. And little frogs. We were finding little creatures,” she said.

Her mom, Maria, brought her and her brother, Jesus, 10, so they could learn a little about their heritage. Last week, the schools were studying Hispanic culture and Jesus came home “asking a lot of questions about my country,” she said.

“I decided I have to tell and show you,” she said, and that’s why she brought them to the celebration for the first time. “Everything is interesting,” said Jesus, who went to Mexico twice, but he was very young. “I like the dances and the music,” he said. He also noticed that when the American Pledge of Allegiance is said, people put their hands over their heart, but when the Mexican pledge is said, people keep their hand horizontal, like a salute, over their hearts.

“It’s interesting,” he said, plus the Mexican one was more difficult and longer.

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