As a proud supporter of many of Chicago’s most renowned street festivals and parades, often I am scrutinized for my preference to partake in some of the more “Americanized” festivals, rather than some of Chicago’s prolific Latino festivals like the Fiesta del Sol festival and the Mexican Independence Parade. Hence, I’ve even been accused of not being “Mexican” enough and/or severely “white-washed,” a misconstrued perception. My inclination to attend events such Chicago’s Pride Parade or May Fest in Lincoln Square every year, where you would not observe a large Latino population, is by no means a tactic to dismiss or discriminate against my culture. Rather to absorb a unique experience outside of my community and cultural traditions.
Regardless of my absence at the Mexican Independence Parade since I was 11 years old, I hold a strong kinship to my cultural roots. Still, why does there seem to be this bias rather than camaraderie towards Latinos who don’t fancy “Latino” cultural festivities or celebrations, from my fellow Latinos? This dismay has stared me in the face countless times in the past. However, in recent years, it has been evident that a shift is trending within our Latino population. Our younger and older Latino population is rapidly assimilating to main-stream American culture more than ever before.
An example of such a shift was seen at the Chicago 2012 Pride Parade. I was astoundingly impressed with the increase of Latinos that were present at the parade. Such an occasion would not have been as conspicuous in previous years. The crowd contained not only young Latinos, but a plethora of Hispanic familias all taking in the festivities. It was sensational to witness the cultural shift rising amongst both our younger and older Latino population. I found myself standing next to a Hispanic couple probably in their early 50’s. I could see the delight in their eyes, as each float with its exuberant performers, strut by. The amount of gaudiness and flamboyancy the performers exuded was undetectable, as the glee was visible in their faces. They were fully immersed in the celebration, indifferent to any cultural disparities or perceptions. This was quite wonderful to see as the cultural disproportion has been palpable in the past, thus marking this shift as revolutionary.
My fondest memory of the parade was seeing one of a few Latino groups marching behind their float and dancing away to salsa music yet proudly wearing the rainbow colors to show their support for the Pride community. This was a remarkable observation, indicating that our Latino population is quickly assimilating to main-stream American culture, while still proudly embracing their Hispanic heritage.