WEST CHICAGO – On Sept. 16, 1810, a Roman Catholic priest rang the church bell in the small village of Dolores to mark the beginning of Mexico’s fight for freedom from Spain.
More than 200 years later, a bell again will ring out, this time in downtown West Chicago, to commemorate that historic moment. The peals of this year’s bell come after two years of silence caused by cancellations of the city’s annual Mexican Independence Day Celebration.
“It’s very important that we bring this festival back,” Mayor Ruben Pineda said. “We’re 51 percent Hispanic, so it’s good to bring the community together.”
Last year, the event was canceled due to a lack of volunteers, and in 2011, rain stopped the festivities. But this year, more residents stepped forward to get involved, and the event will go on, rain or shine.
“It’s always been a community event for the community to come celebrate, and they did not want that to end,” said Valeria Lopez, chair of the celebration committee.
The annual Mexican Independence Day Celebration began in 1992 and was organized by residents until 2008, when the city stepped in to take the reins and support the event financially, said Lopez, who also serves as the city’s executive office manager and deputy city clerk.
The population of West Chicago is more than half Latino, according to city statistics. About 47 percent of residents specifically are of Mexican descent.
“This gives our community a good opportunity to see a great festival from our Hispanic population’s perspective,” Pineda said.
The celebration will begin at noon Sunday with a parade starting at West Stimmel Street, winding through neighborhood streets and ending in the historic downtown district along Main Street.
An old train bell owned by a West Chicago resident will be at the center of the celebration as part of the reenactment of “El Grito de la Independencia,” or “The Cry for Independence.”
Since 1992, West Chicago has used a bell owned by resident Lorenzo Covarrubias, who has lived in West Chicago since 1957. He is known as the “Patron de la Campana,” or “Patron of the Bell.”
The opening ceremony, including El Grito, will begin at 1:30 p.m. on Galena Street.
The event will feature entertainment, food, children’s activities, art and history exhibits, crafts and a car show.
Although the city saw two years without a Mexican Independence Day Celebration, Pineda assures residents that a break of that length will not occur again, something Lopez believes community members will be happy to hear.
“It’s important to know that nobody wants this event to end, and we want everyone to come celebrate,” Lopez said.