By Ivan Mejia
LOS ANGELES – A large group of Salvadorans living in Southern California over the weekend celebrated the 188th anniversary of El Salvador’s independence with a parade through the streets of Hollywood.
Although the Central American country’s independence day is Sept. 15, Salvadorans living in Greater Los Angeles on Sunday once again held a parade on Santa Monica Boulevard which for 10 years has been organized by the Salvadoran Independence Parade and Festival organization, or Defisal.
“With this parade, we want to keep alive the customs of El Salvador in the United States and for parents to be able to pass (this) down to their children so that they feel what we experience in El Salvador every Sept. 15,” Defisal president Hector Menendez told Efe.
At the head of the contingent of floats and musical bands, Alicia Cordova, 15, who was selected Miss Independence, told Efe – while she carried the flag of El Salvador – that as the child of Salvadorans “it makes me proud to march with the Salvadoran flag because I was born here, but my heart is also in El Salvador.”
“For me, participating also means showing that if together we show our heart, we’re going to become a better community,” she added.
Amid a number of vehicles with loudspeakers that vibrated with “cumbia” rhythms in the style of the Salvadoran band Los Hermanos Flores, Miss El Salvador-USA – Brenda Jacinto – waved to the crowd.
The beauty queen, who emigrated with her parents at an early age from La Libertad, added that the independence parade “makes us remember our homeland and that although we’re far away, this celebration has the same significance as if we were there in our country.”
“The parade makes us very happy and it makes us feel proud to be Salvadoran,” she emphasized.
At the front of the musical band from the Association of Salvadorans of Los Angeles, 5-year-old Nelson Orellana marched and beat on a drum.
Walking along with the youngster was his grandfather – who bears the same name – and he told Efe that in the United States if parents do not inculcate the roots of where they come from in their little ones “they lose everything.”
Dagoberto Reyes, the head of the El Salvador Culture Center in Los Angeles, said that “in Southern California there are about 1.5 million ... Salvadorans and we must not lose our family connections, our cultural connections, the links with the place we were born and the land we left behind.”
Reyes promotes the strengthening of the cultural roots of Salvadoran-Americans in the United States, but at the same time he advises them to assimilate into U.S. culture.
“Assimilation is an unavoidable part of socialization,” he said. “Our children speak English, they are U.S. citizens and have the right to celebrate their Latin American origin, just like the Irish have (the right) to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day or the Italians, or other cultures, to show pride in their roots.”
Meanwhile, Nelson Flores, the president of the El Pescador community organization, agreed that assimilation is a positive thing, “provided our roots remain with us and we instill in our children from where we came and the love for our homeland.” EFE