Sunday, September 6, 2009

the Central American Parade

Immigrants from Guatamala, El Salvadore, Honduras, Costa Rica and Nicaragua gathered at noon today on Lawrence for the Central American Parade. Families milled on the street with their camping chairs, children and chihuahaus, swaying flags in time to the music. My attempts at a conversation in English were met with quizzical smiles and polite nods.

The parade itself had a couple floats, with each country having their own beauty queen waving to the crowd of 300. The first float had a little girl showering the crowd with sweets, but after the first handful a police officer put a stop to the free candy (t-shirts, pens, and candy were tossed later in the parade without the cops knowledge) . Each country had women in traditional garb carrying banners and dancing with maracas to their respective music. The amount of floats was limited, so motorcycles and cars decked out in flags, dolls and embroidered cloth and stuffed with proud patriots provided adequate filler. The newspaper La Raza had 2 trucks, so did various travel agencies, automotive care companies, the moving company Medrano, and a local soccer team. Alderman of the 4th Ward Toni Preckwinkle walked the street with her campaign staff, handing out flyers (with no spanish translation) highlighting her run for the Cook County Board President. Pollo Campero, Mr. Pollo, and the Mission Independent Baptist Church also handed out flyers (with spanish translations).

My favorite sights from the parade included parade participants dressed as bird women, monkeys, cats and comical old folk, who danced with hand-held instruments. At one point during the parade people wore petite mannequins on their heads, which made eerie 10 foot tall figures with real feet and small plastic heads. From a distance I thought they were people on stilts, but the reality was still more unsettling. Men and women rode skittish horses and I held my breath each time one of the animals jerked to the side. The constant loud music, honking cars, fake sirens and intentionally set off car alarms was a visible stress on the horses and each rider was attentive and careful. There were some DIY costumes: one group of people wore cardboard box-tents decorated with streamers, with the breathing hole covered with an ornate (wooden?) bull head. The Pollo Campero mascot (a yellow chicken with an orange hat) made an appearance on top of a jeep wrangler and I saw an over-sized hood ornament in the shape of a donkey on a turquoise jeep.

The parade began on California, traveled west 12 blocks to Kimball and lasted an hour.

Photos courtesy of fauxtank. You can see more photos here.


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