Think of it as the Fourth of July, only Latino style and without the hassle of a fireworks show.
Thousands of Latinos from Mexico and Central and South American countries are expected to flood downtown Las Vegas starting with a parade Saturday morning to celebrate their respective independence revolutions from Spain.
They’ll be waving their nation’s flag, dancing their country’s dances, proudly showing off their floats, and they’ll be doing it all under the banner of Mexican Independence Day, which occurs Monday.
It’s the third annual event put on by Fiesta Las Vegas Latino Parade and Festival Committee.
Just about everybody from Peru to Ecuador to Panama to Colombia were putting the finishing touches on their floats, which are expected to number more than 100, on Thursday night.
Last year’s winner of the best float award was Orgullo Colombiano, or Colombian Pride. With about 3,000 of them living in the Las Vegas Valley, the Colombians hope to take this year’s top prize again, which is why more than a dozen members from the group have spent the past three weeks decorating their float. The colorful float, created around a boat, will be pulled by a pickup.
“We’re proud of where we come from and we want to show it off,” said Tatiana Rivera, 31, who has lived in Las Vegas for more than a decade.
Said her fellow Colombian friend, Yarleny Roa-Dugan, 25, who has lived in Las Vegas for nine years and graduated from Odyssey State Charter High School: “We just want everybody to know that there are more countries south of Mexico, that’s all.”
Colombia, which sits atop South America, has many of its own traditions, including Zumba, the popular dance, which was invented in Colombia.
Its food is vastly different from Mexico’s. No enchiladas there; no tacos, no chips and salsa. But there’s “aji,” a special pepper that serves as the country’s primary condiment, which is not always hot; the “arepa,” a thick tortilla that’s stuffed with either meat or potatoes; and the “refajo,” a special drink that’s a combination of special Colombian soda and Colombian beer.
The drink can be found at Oiga, Mire, Vea, the only Colombian restaurant in Las Vegas, but there’s a catch: No Colombian beers are imported into the United States, so you’ll have to drink Bud Light, Heineken or some other beer along with the soda, whose taste is close to the U.S. version of a cream soda.
Colombia is one of the few countries that’s bordered by three bodies of water — the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and the Caribbean Sea, which lies in the Atlantic — and is not in the middle of some ocean. There’s also the Amazon River in the south of the country, where the Gucamayo can is found. The bird’s colors are the same as the country’s flag: yellow, blue and red.
A civil war has been going on in the country for over five decades. Since drug lord Pablo Escobar was killed in 1993, the internal strife doesn’t get the sort of press that it once did, but the country is often torn asunder by rebels known for indiscriminate bombings and attacks on petroleum pipelines and government forces.
The Colombian immigratns would like to impart these and other facts to the public during the parade, which will start at 10 a.m. at Gass Avenue and Fourth Street, travel along Fourth and end at Stewart Avenue.
It will lead to a festival starting at 1 p.m., which will continue around midnight, with Mexican Consul Julian Adem performing the “Grito,” or shout, to kick off Mexican Independence Day.
“Que viva, Mexico,” he will say.
Or as Orgullo Colombiano President Roberto Ramirez said just before putting finishing touches on his group’s float: “Que viva, Colombia!”
Contact reporter Tom Ragan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-224-5512.