The annual Venice Cinco de Mayo Parade and celebration took place this past Saturday, and I got to see the whole parade for the first time ever! Paraders met up at the corner of California and Lincoln, where dancers, marchers, bands, and classic cars and low-riders convened to show their Mexican pride.
There's always excitement for a parade, and this one had Venetians lining the streets to see the bright colors, music, and history brought out for this wonderful event each year. I got there early and stayed late as we were capturing the activities for our documentary, 90291: VENICE UNZIPPED, and we could not have asked for a more gorgeous day for our efforts to capture the spirit and essence of our real Venice. The whole day was awesome.
With all the talk of immigration and walls and negativity toward our Mexican neighbors, this event was more important than ever to show the pride and history of the beautiful country that we used to be.
There was a float with men and women dressed up in old-timey 1862 Mexican garb, letting everyone know that this part of Venice history goes way, way back.
A dude dressed up in a superhero outfit was roller-skating around, and he told me he was "Captain Native America" and it was his job to welcome everyone to the event. Love him.
The classic car clubs were out in force and slicker than ever. Mexican flags hung from them with pride, and the drivers of some low-riders treated the parade watchers to the hydraulic coolness of their cars bouncing up and down as everyone egged them on.
I think my favorite shot of the day was this little guy riding in his own mini classic car, and beaming ear to ear to be right out there with the big boys.
The parade route this year went down Lincoln, turned left on Rose, then left on 7th to the Oakwood Park and historic E.L. Holmes Square - the real epicenter of our African American and Latino history. The street was full of parade participants and celebrators alike, with taco trucks and merchandise booths lining the street, where you could purchase traditional Mexican wares.
Folklorico dancers entertained the crowd, from young to old, all dancing their traditional numbers with traditional music.
Several mariachi bands played, giving the whole day a festive soundtrack to party along to. And people were partying.
The car club guys lined the street in their lawn chairs, tossing back beers and greeting one another like the old friends that everyone seemed to be. It was interesting - and pretty cool - to see guys from former rival gangs embrace and wish each other well ... even though one guy told me that he and the guy he'd just been talking to had shot at each other in the past. Over territory. It all seems so dumb now that they're older and wiser, but it was real and heavy when it was going down, and pretty impressive that they've been able to let things go and live in peace. That was just one of many touching moments throughout the day.
We got to interview several people who live and breathe the history of Venice - like my friend, Lydia Poncé, who walks her talk daily. It's inspiring to be in the presence of people who care so deeply, and are consistently on the front lines of standing up for what's right. Venice needs more of these gems, and should consider itself lucky to have the ones we still do.
The Venice Gondolier marching band played in the parade and at the park, and it was great to see the kids appreciating and participating in their town's history with such enthusiasm. They are all torch bearers to the future, and my heart swelled to see them all there - and proud.
The beautiful and powerful Aztec dancers we saw at the First Baptist Church rally a few weeks ago were back to dance for their people, and their gorgeous costumes brightened the day for everyone. The little ones just killed me with their little outfits and smiles at being a part of it all.
Families came out en masse, enjoying their traditional foods and drinks, dances and rituals. Old friends and neighbors greeted each other all day, and new friends were also made. I had just about the best street corn I've ever had, and happily chowed it while my face became a sticky mess. YUM. I heard so many good stories, and ran into so many cool people that I can't wait to share this film we're making with everyone ... you will laugh, you will cry, and you will think. I could have stayed there all day, enjoying the happy festivities there in the sunshine with so many other happy people of Venice - but we had to get over to Great Western Hoagies to interview my awesome friend, Sergio Perez (all decked out in his Cinco de Mayo best!) about the special place Hoagies has in the heart of Venice - and what Venice means to him. Again, I can't wait to share it all with everyone.
Venice Cinco de Mayo was another fantastic community event, and I hope everyone got to experience even just a part of it - or you fully missed out. Thank you/Gracias to everyone for making it a beautiful day, and for keeping the true history of Venice alive and very well.
Viva Mexico! Viva America! Viva Everyone TOGETHER!