Honoring freedom

September 16, 2003 11:00 pm
Workers prepare to have a lunchtime celebration of the Mexican independence day in Smith River yesterday. (Jennifer Henion).
Workers prepare to have a lunchtime celebration of the Mexican independence day in Smith River yesterday. (Jennifer Henion).

By Jennifer Henion

Triplicate staff writer

There were no parades or fireworks yesterday, only small, quiet celebrations at lunch and after work.

In fact, it was hardly noticable that yesterday was a major holiday for nearly 20 percent of Del Norte County's residents.

Sept. 16 is Mexico's Independence Day, celebrated there as passionately as the Fourth of July is celebrated in the United States.

"It is a holy day in Mexico. It is a celebration of freedom from Spain in 1810. In a way, it is a sad day because it was the beginning of a war and there was lots of death, but it is a happy day because we have our freedom," said Smith River farm worker Isabelle Garcia.

Garcia and 15 of her coworkers at Crockett United lily bulb farm did not take the day off to remember their cultural roots, but they did take an extra-long lunch in the farm's work shed.

Some wore sombreros and red sweatshirts, others simply shared what the day means to them and their families.

"On this day, we don't use names. We just use man or woman to call someone, because we are all one in what we wanted – freedom. We all fought together," Garcia said.

For Garcia and other workers at Crokett United, having a red tablecloth and a big cake with the image of Mexico's flag frosted onto it was enough.

Smith River Headstart teacher, Juanita Ganelon grew up in Ensenada, Mexico, just south of Tijuana. She said it's hard for Del Norte County's Mexicans to celebrate the holiday because so many of them have to go to work on Sept. 16 and so few of them have extended families here to celebrate with.

"Family is very important to us and it's hard because we do not have family here. But we get together and make some real Mexican food – some sopitas with homemade corn tortillas. I don't usually make fresh tortillas," she said.

Her husband, Rosandro Ganelon, said Americans tend to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, a holiday not widely recognized in Mexico.

"It's weird, because we don't celebrate Cinco de Mayo in Mexico, but they celebrate it here. It was a battle between the Indians and the French over gold. On Independence Day all the schools have parades and everyone gathers in the plazas for celebration," he said.