David Manuel Preciado Juárez, the consul of Mexico in Fresno, was on campus Friday to help celebrate the 206th anniversary of Mexican Independence Day and kick off Hispanic Heritage Month.
“President Castro, thank you for letting us celebrate, all of you, being proud to be Mexican. Many of you were born here; many of you were born in Mexico,” Juárez said in the Peace Garden. “But I want to say, Dr. Castro, that many others are Americans who choose to be Mexicans because they really love our culture, our traditions or music.”
The Latina/o Faculty and Staff Association and Latina/o Services Program of the university’s Cross Culture and Gender Center presented “Bienvenida” to celebrate Hispanic culture with musical performances, free tacos, folkloric dance and guest speakers addressing Hispanic achievements at Fresno State and throughout the Hispanic community.
Along with Fresno State President Dr. Joseph Castro, Dr. Frank Lamas, vice president for student affairs and enrollment management, and Provost Dr. Lynnette Zelezny attended.
Olympic gymnast Alexa Moreno, who represented Mexico in the 2016 Rio Olympics, signed autographs and took photos at a meet-and-greet.
University mascots Timeout and Victor E. Bulldog III made appearances to take photos and join in the celebration.
The university performance group Fresno State Mariachi kicked off the event with music, bringing Hispanic musical traditions to campus.
Next was university performance dance group Los Danzantes de Aztlan, the Mexican folkloric dance program of the Chicano and Latin American studies department.
The national anthem was performed acapella by Alejandra Tejada, a music major and member of Fresno State Mariachi. Those in attendance sang along and cheered for the anthem.
After Juárez made his address, he led the historic “El Grito de Dolores” declaration, the battle cry of the Mexican War of Independence from Spain.
Per tradition, the crowd yelled “Viva!” after each declaration.
During the declaration, students bearing the flags of 26 Latin American nations represented at Fresno State were marched in by the Banda de Guerra.
The marching band, Banda de Guerra (traditional band of war), performed. There were cheers throughout the audience.
“Bienvenida!” Castro said as he greeted the audience.
For the first time in the university’s history, Castro said, “Latinos make up 60 percent of our entering freshman class. These are record numbers for us. And it comes at a time when our university is receiving more and more national recognition because of the hard work of our students, faculty and staff and the support of our alumni and friends.”
Castro recounted some of his own family’s history.
“I’m so grateful to serve at this time with all of you and as we celebrate right near Cesar Chavez’s statue. Let us not forget the sacrifices that so many people made for us to be here,” Castro said. “My grandfather in particular, I’m thinking of him today because he immigrated from Simón Michoacan. He had big dreams. All of us have big dreams but because of his circumstances, he was not able to fulfill his potential. So I get to do that for him. And I know many of you are in similar positions; you are here because your families have worked so hard for generations so that you could succeed here at Fresno State.”
Currently, Fresno State has a total of 11,576 Latino students, nearly half of the total enrollment, making Fresno State one of the largest Hispanic-serving institutions in California.
Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated from Sept. 15 through Oct. 15.