Josie Rodriguez/ Courier Young Folklorico dancers practicing before their performance at the Jamaica hispanic heritage event in Pasadena California on Saturday October 24, 2015.

From being a Tongva Indian tribal ground to Rancho San Pascual, Pasadena has been home to people from a variety of backgrounds. To honor its large Latino community, the city of Pasadena’s annual Latino Heritage Parade and Grand Fiesta returned for the 17th year on Saturday.

Josie Rodriguez/ Courier Ignacio Hernandez y su Mariachi performing at the Jamaica Hispanic heritage event in Pasadena California on Saturday October 24, 2015.
Josie Rodriguez/ Courier
Ignacio Hernandez y su Mariachi performing at the Jamaica Hispanic heritage event in Pasadena California on Saturday October 24, 2015.

The celebration kicked off with a colorful parade on Washington Boulevard that showcased school clubs, folklorico dances and musical groups. Hundreds of spectators, including families with little children and dogs, lined the streets to watch the performers march and dance their way to the fiesta at the park.

“I like it. It’s beautiful,” said Giovani Chavez, a Guatemalan living in Pasadena. A second-timer at the event, Chavez was not disappointed by the array of lively performances at the parade.

Following the parade was a jamaica at La Pintoresca Park. Pronounced “ha-my-kah,” a jamaica is a community festival in Latino culture. The jamaica comprised food stalls, information booths and arts and crafts stalls. At the center of it all was a main stage on which performers entertained and added to the upbeat ambience of the occasion.

“What’s important about this parade is what’s important about America,” said councilmember John J. Kennedy. “America is a country of immigrants. All of us have come from other areas of the world to make up the diversity that exists in America. I want to celebrate that diversity and this is an opportunity for me to be a part of that celebration of what makes America great.”

Kennedy has been a regular presence at Latino Heritage events since even before he became a councilmember. What keeps him coming back each year are “the smiles on the young people’s faces and the encouragement that older people can provide young people to fill and live out their full potential and their dreams.”

“This is an opportunity for the community to come together as one to advance [as] one community: all of us working together,” Kennedy added.

This year’s fiesta honored screenwriter Josefina Lopez and historian Roberta Martinez, who served in the parade as Grand Marshall and Community Grand Marshall, respectively. Lopez and Martinez both received certificates and awards of recognition from city councilmembers as well as Congresswoman Judy Chu, who made a brief appearance at the event. Also in attendance were Mayor Terry Tornek and councilmember Tyron Hampton.

Food Day collided with this year’s Latino Heritage Parade and Grand Fiesta, which saw a section of the jamaica being dedicated to encouraging healthy eating habits.

Armed with information about food, Pasadena Unified School District Food Services representatives educated visitors about the importance of healthy eating. By reaching out to the community via events like these, the Food Services Department can provide people with fresh new options, said food operations supervisor Erin Dreyer.

Even after more than a decade, the Latino Heritage event is still going strong. David Montes, senior community relations representative of the Human Services & Recreation Department, attributed the event’s continued success to its attendees.

“It’s the community plus the diversity of everybody: blacks, whites, Latinos, Asians…” Montes added.

Although the Latino Heritage Parade and Grand Fiesta only takes place once a year, the achievements and contributions of the Latino people must not be forgotten on the other 364 days of the year. The event served as a reminder of the city’s past and by reflecting on the Latino history in Pasadena, it also served as a guide for the city’s future.

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