Dancers of the Ballet Folklorico Mexica performed at the Latino Heritage Parade and Festival at Villa-Parke Community Center on Saturday, October 19, 2019. The Ballet Folklorico Mexica dancers perfomed multiple routines during the festival.
The warm morning sun highlighted vibrant pops of color on traditional Latinx dress being worn by young people in Pasadena’s Washington Park. PCC’s marching band rehearsed on Prescott Street to warm up their instruments. Members of a youth dance troupe twirled in place. Drivers stood near shiny restored classic low-rider vehicles on nearby North Los Robles Avenue, ready to carry local officials and dignitaries on the route.
“Hope never quits and they can never take it away from you,” Farber said in a bilingual address. “It will drive you and inspire you and you will always be able to reach higher because anything is possible.”
For the first time, PCC’s Assistant Superintendent Vice President of Student Services Cynthia Olivo was the day’s Community Grand Marshal.
“It’s such an honor for me, especially because I’ve worked here for 11 years and I live in the community,” Olivo said. “I identify as Chicana which is a political identity, historically aware and politically active.”
PCC Superintendent President Erika Endrijonas and Assistant Superintendent Senior Vice President Robert Bell from the Community Education Center (CEC) rode together. Several times along the route, Endrijonas handed out PCC backsacks to kids from her seat in their open-top Volkswagen Beetle convertible.
The PCC band and flag corps, following immediately behind Endrijonas and Bell, received cheers as they performed on the route.
Local civic leaders turned out to support and celebrate their local Latinx community. Pasadena Mayor Terry Tornek, State Assemblyman Anthony Portantino and City Attorney Michele Beal Bagneris each had their own vehicle and waved to spectators.
Councilmember John J. Kennedy walked alongside his car and personally greeted people on both sides of the street. He shook hands and told several children at each stop that they’d be future mayors, representatives and leaders.
“The true family of Pasadena has come together, all races, ethnicities, orientations, to really celebrate Latino heritage and what it means, not only to Pasadena, but what it means to our nation,” said Kennedy, a Pasadena native. “We are a nation of immigrants and we need to embrace our brothers and sisters and the indigineous people from this area. I’m happy to be here. Happy!”
The largest crowds gathered along Los Robles Avenue south of Orange Grove Boulevard near the Villa Parke Community Center, where the parade ended.
In this stretch of the parade Juanita Olivo, surrounded by several other family members, cheered as the vehicle carrying her daughter Cynthia drove by.
Amid the cheers, Juanita reflected on perseverance.
“When I was at MSJC [Mt. San Jacinto College] as a single mom with four daughters, no one ever believed that we would ever be successful,” Olivo said. “My daughters are not going to be statistics and the counselors would laugh.”
She also knew early in Cynthia’s childhood that a future educator was growing up.
“Cynthia, ever since she was little, she’s always been just that little character,” Olivo said. “She was the ‘principal,’ and Tami [her cousin] was a ‘student,’ and the neighbor kid was a ‘student.’ But she was always the one in control of everything.”
Sid Garcia, reporter for KABC-TV, emceed the festival.
“This is the 21st straight year that we’re doing this heritage parade and festival here in the city of Pasadena, where you’ve got the community and the city combining resources to have this wonderful, wonderful weekend here in the park,” Garcia said.
While publicly thanking Endrijonas among city leaders, Garcia included a shout out which drew cheers and applause from the crowd.
“I’m not lying when I tell you probably the best community college in the state of California, PCC’s got a wonderful history,” Garcia said.
Roberta H. Martínez, founder of the Latino Heritage Parade and active member of the President’s Latino Advisory Committee at PCC, soaked in the festival’s atmosphere.
Saturday’s event was its sixth year by the City of Pasadena. Fifteen years before that, Martínez and a volunteer Latino heritage committee, reaching approximately 100 members, did all the work and fundraising. As the cultural project grew, Martínez received assistance from city leaders.
“I’m the Nana,” Martínez said proudly. “I think it’s wonderful that there is a new generation that’s involved. I think that it is great to have Villa Parke so involved in this.”
For the future, Martínez offered some of Nana’s wisdom.
“Legacy means sustainability, right? Sustainability means legacy,” Martínez said. “I think the other thing that would be really valuable would be to take some of the history, the lessons and things that are here and put them in the schools.”
Certificates of commendation from Portantino’s office and Tornek’s office were awarded to both Farber and Olivo.
Festival attendees picnicked, children played in a large inflatable castle and people sat near a stage and dance floor on the lawn. They cheered and applauded a variety of singers, Aztec dancing and other entertainment.
Looking over the crowd at Villa Parke, “Nana” Martínez smiled.