PORT ARTHUR —
Port Arthur’s Robert E. “Bob” Bowers Civic Center was awash in the culture of Mexico Saturday, with colorful reminders of a heritage south of the border.
Doors opened early for the 45th Mexican Heritage Fiesta, where the first event — youngsters dressed in traditional Mexican clothing competing in a kids costume contest — set the stage for a day full of family fun.
“This is probably one of the most family-oriented events we celebrate at the Civic Center because it includes all members of the family celebrating Mexican heritage,” Deloris “Bobbie” Prince, Port Arthur mayor, said.
From as young as 3-months-old, the youngsters strutted onto the stage with their parents, modeling traditional ribbon and flamingo dresses, sombreros, panchos and even ancient Aztec Indian garb.
One-year-old Carmella Castaneda, wore the traditional China Poblana dress, a white blouse and colorful embroidered red and green shirt.
Her mother, Ann Jannise, 29, of Groves said friends brought the dress back from Mexico for her daughter to wear in the costume contest.
“The dress is pretty and she knows she’s pretty in it,” Jannise said.
Jannise has attended the festival for about five years, and plans to keep coming in year’s to come.
Jannise is not of Hispanic descent, but her husband is, though he doesn’t speak Spanish. She does, however. She teaches the language at Port Neches Groves ISD.
“It is important that the traditions are kept alive,” she said.
So much so, that she offered her students extra credit for attending Saturday’s event.
Sylvia Garcia, 53, came to the United States when she was just 2-years-old from Monterey, Mexico. She has spent her life traveling back to the place of her birth to visit relatives, and was reminded of Mexico Saturday.
“It is important to teach kids, to keep the culture so they know where they come from and to be proud of their heritage,” Garcia said.
Mexican Heritage events continued throughout Saturday, and into the night with pageants, music, folkloric dancers, mariachi bands and cultural food, including corn in a cup — a spicy-as-you-want-it traditional Latino concoction filled with one’s choice of mayonnaise, lime, cheese and salsa picante.
The fiesta is celebrated each year in honor of the Mexican Independence from Spain on Sept. 16, 1810.
Proceeds from the event provide college scholarships to youth of Southeast Texas of Mexican descent.
The Mexican Heritage Festival, sponsored for the first time in 1969, issued its first scholarship in 1990. Since then, 108 academic scholarships and 62 Queen pageant scholarships, for a total of 170 scholarships have been awarded.