Celebrating diversity

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Monica Martinez--Ballet folkorico dancers display their colorful traditional dresses after a performance.

American residents of Mexican, Central and South American, Spain and Caribbean decent celebrate their heritage during the next four weeks in honor of Hispanic Heritage month.

This month, which began on Sept. 15 and ends Oct. 15, focuses on accomplishments made by American citizens of Hispanic roots.

“Latinos are important in many aspects of society, in literature, in theater, in Hollywood and in music,” Jose Medina, Riverside Community College trustee, said. “Their contributions should be recognized by the larger society.”

Several countries also celebrate their nations’ independence days on Sept. 15 such as Costa Rica and Honduras.

Mexico celebrated 200 years of independence on Sept. 16. The bicentennial event started with the traditional re-enactment of Miguel Hidalgo’s grito de Dolores, war cry, in the city of Dolores. Each year the Mexican President, currently Felipe Calderón , rings the bell at the national palace in Mexico City among the crowds of people.

Hidalgo is credited as the father of Mexican independence.

Hispanics represent the second largest ethnic group in Riverside County, based on 2000 Census data information. The Census reports that the white ethnic group accounted for 51 percent of the county’s population, followed by Hispanics at 36.2 percent.

Medina, also a candidate for California Assembly for the 64th district, said that celebrating the Hispanic culture is critical to the nation and to Riverside.

“Locally, the Latino population is growing,” Medina said. “As it grows, it becomes even more important that we educate the young population on how to meet the diverse job market.”

In celebration, the City of Riverside will host the 5th Annual Mariachi Festival on Sept. 25 at Fairmount Park. This festival will include performances by several nationally known mariachis such as Mariachi Reyna de Los Angeles along with ballet folkorico dancers. Traditional food and crafts will also be available for purchase.

Additionally, the Riverside Art Museum is showcasing an exhibit on Chicana photographers from Southern California. “¡Adelante Siempre!” (Always Moving Forward), opened on Sept. 11 and will close on Nov. 6.