Mexican Independence Day Celebrations Take Over Downtown Chicago

Celebrations surged through the night along River North causing varying opinions and harsh actions from officials.

Mexican Independence Day celebrations took place in downtown Chicago this past week, with celebrations lasting from Sept.15 to Sept. 18. These celebrations sparked mixed reactions from city officials as well as Loyola students of Mexican descent.

With the shutdown of downtown Chicago ranging from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. came serious consequences for some celebrating. Chicago Police Department (CPD) Chief Angel Novalez had to instruct 911 dispatchers in River North to respond only to calls that involve injury, the rest were told to “code it” in other words dismiss calls on Sept. 16, the height of celebrations. 

Mayor Lori Lightfoot held a press conference on Sept. 17 in response to the disruptions by the festivities. Lightfoot addressed the turnout in River North with an emphasis on stopping the burnouts, car doughnuts and fireworks.

“We are joined here today to encourage everyone across our city to use common sense in celebrating Mexican Independence Day,” Lightfoot said.

Sept. 15 and Sept. 16 celebrations caused traffic to be in “total gridlock” downtown, as addressed by Lightfoot during her press conference. 

Anthony Jimenez, a senior and secretary of the Mexican American Student Association (MASA) of Loyola works downtown at Gyu Kaku, a Japanese BBQ restaurant and he said he had no choice to attend celebrations downtown. Jimenez, voiced his concerns towards the way festivities were being held.

“Celebrate the way you want to, but I also want to say be respectful of the way you celebrate,” Jimenez said. “The way people were downtown and all over the city is just not a good representation of being Mexican.”

Jimenez himself is half mexican and half guatemalan. 

Jimenez said the nature of the demonstrations last weekend risk portraying Mexicans in a negative light. 

“With what happened over the weekend for Mexican Independence Day, I feel like that just brought us a very bad view, cause everything was left dirtier so I would probably say if you’re going to celebrate, celebrate with your family and friends,” Jimenez said. “Just do it at home.”

Esmeralda Padilla, junior and MASA club member, did not attend any Mexican Independence Day celebrations downtown but celebrated with close friends. 

“I think it’s like a wonderful idea to go out and celebrate and do those things,” Padilla said “I mean, it’s just showing that you have a lot of pride in your culture and who you are as a person.” 

Padilla said these commemorations are a way for Mexicans living in Chicago to make space for their community. She also said it’s a good way to celebrate for those who may not have family or be in a heavily populated Hispanic community in the city. 

Padilla expressed her concern towards Lightfoot’s comments by emphasizing how hypocritical it was for her to say those things to the Hispanic community. 

“If this was like a Fourth of July celebration none of this would have been addressed,” Padilla said.

Padilla voices her apprehension over the city’s minimal efforts to adjust space and time for these commemorations.

“I feel like if they really want to accommodate for us and make sure we’re not going to be rowdy or anything like that, maybe they should block off certain roads for these celebrations,” Padilla said.

Nubia Willman, City of Chicago’s director of Office of New Americans, said that the process for the city to be able to accommodate any event includes proper permits and organization. 

“Spontaneous caravans that aren’t really organized by community groups, there is no way to coordinate the shutting of streets,” said Willman.

Willman talks about the possibility of future restrictions of commemorations of these sort when involving public safety.

“It is a public safety concern, clearly if we know that folks are gonna come and do [car] doughnuts on lakeshore which is what happened that is when we have to address it because that is completely unsafe,” said Willman.

Willman does not believe festivities should be stopped but changed due to safety concerns.

“The idea is that people continue to celebrate Mexican Independence day throughout the city we just have to have common sense and a safer approach to it,” Willman said.

Samantha Martinez

Samantha Martinez