Bringing Latin Heritage to Pasadena

The event represented the stories, traditions and rituals of an entire culture

The 20th annual Latino Heritage parade kicked off Saturday, Oct. 13 in Pasadena, Calif. Despite complications with rainy weather, the parade drew out 2,500 participants and spectators. This included a mostly diverse array of Latino constituents from local schools, community groups, elected officials and dignitaries.

This year’s theme honored Latinos and Latinas in the entertainment arena, celebrating their outstanding television, radio, film performances and accomplishments both in front and behind the camera.

The festival featured art exhibits, artisans, educational and historical displays, entertainment, food, community booths, a tribute to Selena Quintanilla by actress, singer and songwriter Tamara Rodriguez Mehl and the Helpful Honda team who were present to hand out free Mexican paletas to the audience.

Beginning at 10 a.m. at Washington Park, the parade led to a festival and car show at Villa Parke right before noon, where the community celebrated until 4.p.m.

Before the parade began Saturday morning, a VIP breakfast was held at Villa Parke Community Center to celebrate all of the Grand Marshalls and the parade committee.

The Grand Marshalls included a wide range of Latino talent such as fashion stylist Gina Ponce, comedian Joe “El Cholo” Luna, musician Pablo “El Gordo” Lobo, the cast of the movie “Coco,” Carlos Moreno Jr., Blanca Soto, Denise Blasor, Daniel E. Mora, Jossara Jinaro, the 2016 Tournament of Roses Parade Princess Donaly Marquez, radio host

Terry “El Terrible” Cortez, and many more.

The City of Pasadena Human Services and Recreation Department, alongside a local community-based organization, Latino Heritage Fundraising Committee, sponsor the event every year.

Actor and councilmember Jerry Velasco for the City of El Monte and Franci Sanchez of La Ranchera 96.7 FM were standouts during the breakfast as they are known for their support of beneficial programs and services for immigrants.

These programs provide community-based mental health and legal support services, according to Rebeca Martinez Barrett, president and community outreach director of ICRN (Immigration Community Resource Network) and GEMCA, Inc. Barrett also added that they are geared toward successfully delivering comprehensive programs for all.

“This will be my second year and I am honored to be a part of a well-rounded committee,” she said. “I am a newcomer to the community service industry, but I am determined to make an impact to positively serve the immigrant population.”

Earlier this year, Congresswoman Grace F. Napolitano honored the 2018 “Unsung Heroines,” the women of the year, for exemplary service at an award ceremony which included Barrett and 15 other women.

“I evaluate my progress on a daily basis and always feel as though I could do much more to support the immigrant population,” Barrett said. “This journey has helped me to appreciate everyone and not to be judgmental, but to be of support to those in need.”

Actor, comedian, radio DJ, and GCC alumnus Jim Francis Meza explained how important Barrett is to the committee during the VIP breakfast Saturday morning.

“Today we are all a family and Rebeca is the person who brings us all together, just take a look around,”  Meza said. “She brought the cast of “Coco” along. She is why I am here today, she has not only opened doors for me but opens doors for everyone who crosses paths with her.”

He added that she was grateful to be a part of the parade and believes young Latinos need to break free from the four walls they ‘cocoon themselves’ in, take calculated risks, study, and make every situation a positive opportunity.

“Regardless of how far fetched it was because of the poverty stricken community I grew up in,” Meza said. “I always knew I was going to be where I am at. This is exactly what I dreamt of as a child. We didn’t have much, but I went to college, bettered myself and learned to respect people.”

Parade first-timer and comedian Joe “El Cholo” Luna also explained how being involved with the parade committee solidified how far he has pushed himself to reach success.

“I have never done anything like this,” Luna said. “I grew up in an environment where you avoid conversation, only to avoid conflict with people.” Luna explained that in doing comedy, he had to learn how to adjust to people and confrontation, including of the friendly variety.

Alongside Luna was actor Daniel E. Mora who explained how the Disney film “Coco” helped educate a large audience about positive Latino values.

“The film helped other cultures, for once, see the unity, nobility of our people, and the real strength that we possess,” said Mora. “It’s easy to dismiss us as they have for centuries, but it’s events like this that show our community remains positive, keeps moving forward and just out of sheer inertia, we are going to break through.”