Mariachi Mixteco can be seen performing on stage as mannequins dressed in traditional garb mark the entrance to the “Viva Mexico” art exhibit on Tuesday, Sept. 14, at the Carmen Durazo Cultural Arts Center in Calexico. | QUINTIN MILLAN PHOTO
CALEXICO — Beer companies and frat boys have Cinco De Mayo, but most folks closer to the border and in touch with their ancestry celebrate Mexican Independence Day on “16 de septiembre,” or Sept. 16, the start of the war for independence between Mexico and Spain.
Short of the ability to have any public re-enactments of “El Grito de Dolores” — the cry of the Dolores parish church by Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla that urged the largely indigenous community to take up arms against the colonizing Spaniards in the early-morning hours of Sept. 16, 1810 — the city of Calexico is urging its residents to take up the chance to see some local art celebrating our neighbors to the south.
The city of Calexico and the Calexico Arts Commission debuted the “Viva Mexico” art exhibit at the Carmen Durazo Cultural Arts Center on Tuesday, Sept. 14, with live music by Mariachi Mixteco and singer Paty Hurtado, all in celebration of the impending holiday.
“There are two components: community belonging and our roots,” said Norma Gerardo, recreation manager for the city of Calexico, who also oversees the Carmen Durazo Cultural Arts Center. “We have Mexican roots. Most Calexicans have Mexican roots, and why not celebrate such an important day to our culture, our roots, and our sister city?”
Local artist Eduardo Quintero is city staff assistant assigned specifically to the Carmen Durazo center. He said the exhibit is an important cultural link for the community.
“We want to worship the art of every artist,” Quintero said. “With Mexican Independence Day coming up, we also want to show and bring our Mexican art to this country. We’re definitely not the first ones to do this, but we’re trying to keep the art of these kinds of memories alive.”
This opening event was sponsored by the Calexico Arts Council along with assistance from the California Arts Council.
Although attendance on Tuesday was sparse, much of that is owed to space restrictions the city still has in place due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which hit Calexico particularly hard, especially in the early months.
One of the evening’s performers, Hurtado, lost her brother to COVID in the early months of the pandemic, and both she and one of her sisters contracted the coronavirus as well. Hurtado spoke to this newspaper about her lengthy illness in April 2020.
Low numbers didn’t stop those who were on hand on Sept. 14 from stepping onto the dancefloor as Mariachi Mixteco performed.
Gerardo and Quintero said the public can visit the Carman Durazo Cultural Arts Center to see the art and décor honoring the Mexico from 5:30 to 8 p.m. during the week until the final day, Thursday, Sept. 23. Call ahead to reserve a spot to see the exhibit, they said, at 760-357-5575.
“Come see this great exhibition,” Quintero said. “Maybe you’re an artist as well and you want to show off your art. Come over and talk to us and we’ll see what we can do. There are a lot of things to do in this space. We love to have these kinds of events here. Come and enjoy as an artist or as a spectator.”
Gerardo agreed, adding the city is trying to enhance artistic programming for its citizens.
“Opportunities to go and enjoy arts are very few and sparse here,” she said. “We want to provide opportunities for the community and every age group to not only come and see professional art exhibitions but to also be part of community exhibitions. You, too, can come and exhibit a piece.”