OCEANSIDE — A crowd of more than 1,000 gathered at the Civic Center Plaza on Sept. 15 to celebrate Noche Mexicana, the night Mexico gained its independence from Spain 203 years ago.
“It’s the biggest multicultural event we have in Mexico,” Luis Oceguera, owner and instructor of Ballet Folklorico Tapatio of Oceanside, said. “It’s very important for kids to know Sept. 16 is Independence Day.”
Food stands, colorful vendor booths, a wrestling ring and grand performance stage filled a block of Pier View Way.
On stage popular bands, a mariachi group and ballet folklorico dancers performed.
Following an afternoon of entertainment the event ended at sunset with Consulate of Mexico Victor Corzo calling out El Grito, the cry by Dolores Hidalgo that Mexico had won its independence.
“We try to put everything together the way they do in Mexico — food, music, the tradition of dancing, and the main event El Grito,” Oceguera said.
The Ballet Folklorico Tapitio of Oceanside performance at Noche Mexicana has been a longtime crowd favorite.
“We have been participating the last five or six years, pretty much from the beginning,” Oceguera said.
The adult ballet folklorico group has 22 dancers age 13 and up. The children’s ballet folklorico group had 20 dancers age 8 to 12.
Both groups won first place at the Fiesta del Reyes dance competition in Old Town San Diego in May against international teams. This is the second consecutive year the adult group has won the title and the first year a children’s competition category was included.
To reach that skill level the ballet folklorico group routinely practices two to three times a week and steps up practices to three to four times a week prior to a performance or competition. Adult practice sessions last four hours and children’s practices last an hour and a half.
“Parents push their kids to learn about their culture and tradition,” Oceguera said. “It’s
very physical work. It’s a really, really high energy sport we train those kids for.”
The group’s performance at Noche Mexicana showcased dances from different states in Mexico.
“Every single state had their own dancing,” Oceguera said. “Folklorico, the meaning of the word is tradition and town. The performance represents us as a whole country.”
Oceguera travels to Mexico annually to learn dances firsthand from the indigenous people of one of the 31 states of Mexico.
This year his dance group performed dances from the states of Guadalajara and San Luis Potosi.
The ballet folklorico performance always ends with the Tapitio, Mexican Hat Dance, from Oceguera’s hometown state of Jalisco.
“The mariachi band plays, the women have colorful dresses and the guys have charro costumes,” Oceguera said.
This is the 10th year Noche Mexicana has been held in Oceanside. The Mexican heritage celebration recognizes the large Mexican population in North County and shares Mexican tradition and culture.
“It’s a great way to enjoy a very complete festival,” Oceguera said. “We include exactly what Mexico does for this celebration. A lot of people are starting a tradition and getting to know a little bit of our tradition.”