Judy Heredia stood off to the side of Civic Center Drive Downtown as the parade passed by, gripping a Mexican flag with both hands and vigorously waving it.
“Viva la Mexico! Whoooooo!” Heredia cheered. Long live Mexico.
But the parade that wound along the Scioto riverfront was about more than just Mexico and the paraders who proudly featured Mexican flags.
It was also about those in the parade who hailed from Chile and its Andes Mountains in South America and the Dominican Republic and its proud baseball heritage in the Caribbean. From Bolivia and El Salvador, Brazil and Argentina and Puerto Rico, all now calling Greater Columbus home.
“This is very heartwarming. It’s all about the Hispanic community coming together,” said Heredia, who is from Polina, in western Mexico, but now makes her home in Whitehall.
“We are here, and we are here to stay,” she said.
It was that sense of community that was clear among the hundreds in the parade and the spectators watching them, no matter where they or their families came from.
The parade kicked off Latine/Hispanic Heritage Month in Columbus. Organizers emphasized Latine (lah-TEE’-nay) because the term is gender-neutral and Spanish.
Columbus City Council member Lourdes Barroso de Padilla, a Columbus native of Cuban heritage, said at least 30 countries were represented in the parade, the first of its kind in Columbus.
Barroso de Padilla helped coordinate the effort along with 20-30 community members since late spring.
“We had a vision to do something like this,” she said, one that she said will become an annual event.
The results of that vision were clear Saturday morning along the Rich Street Bridge over the Scioto, where units were lining up for the parade.
That included women in high heels and colorful samba outfits and tall headdresses, representing Brazil, and a pickup truck outfitted with the red, white and blue colors of the Dominican Republic.
With the Dominican group was Zari Carmona, wearing a straw hat, along with friend Sandra Lopez, who said she estimated there are 10,000 to 15,000 people of Dominican heritage in the Columbus area, supporting five Dominican grocery stores and 100 Dominican-owned businesses.
“We have clothing stores. So many companies,” said Carmona, of the East Side.
She came to Columbus 21 years ago from Staten Island, in New York City, where more than 700,000 people of Dominican heritage live, for a better way of life, more affordable housing and job opportunities.
Lopez, also of the East Side, has been here for 25 years and also mentioned a better way of life here, one that includes something people likely take for granted here: backyards.
Eric Serrano was dressed in black and wearing orange butterfly wings to represent the “Dreamers,” those who came to this country at a young age. He belongs to the Gente Indigena Collective, a group of artists and creatives.
Serrano arrived in Columbus from Puerto Rico in 2015 and lives on the Near East Side. “We want people to know we’re here. There’s still a lot of work to be done,” he said. But he was also looking forward to a fun day, he said.
Lorenzo Quiroga was with about 15 others of Chilean heritage in the parade, with women in traditional dresses and a young man wearing a black Chilean horseman’s hat.
“I think representation matters,” said Quiroga, of Grandview Heights. And he said the parade represents many Hispanic cultures such as his.
“This was made by everyone for everyone,” he said.
The parade stepped off from the bridge and included, drum under his left arm, Samuel James, a uniformed Columbus police officer of Dominican heritage. He’s been with the division for more than 12 years, coming from the Bronx, in New York City.
“It’s great,” James said of the parade. “It shows we’re bringing the community together.”
Along Civic Center Drive, Kiara Zamot, of Bexley, had a red, white and blue Puerto Rican flag draped over her shoulders. She said she didn’t know anyone in the parade but wanted to represent a heritage of which she is proud.
“We’re not a big community. But we’re here,” Zamot said.
The parade ended at City Hall, in a lively display of group photos, dancing and trumpet riffs.
As the party was kicking off on the City Hall plaza, Lopez walked over with a big smile. She mentioned the bad news around us much of the time.
But then she mentioned what was around here and hundreds of others on a sunny Saturday in Columbus.
“This is a reminder of what matters,” she said.
This News is Published from Google Alert – Hispanic Heritage Month.