When Jenny Lizama lived in Mexico City, she would walk to the city's central plaza every year to participate in the country's Independence Day festivities, also known as El Grito.
In Fresno, where Lizama has lived for the past 17 years, she continues the tradition with her family. Lizama and her two daughters dress in traditional white dresses with green and red trim and join thousands of Valley residents on the Fulton Mall for Fiestas Patrias.
"I'm Mexican and I want to teach my children my culture," Lizama said.
Fresno's annual fiesta, now in its 25th year, is a weekend-long celebration of Mexico's independence from Spain which started Saturday and culminated Sunday night with a live broadcast of the celebration in Mexico City.
The event typically attracts between 60,000 and 75,000 people over two days for food, entertainment and the El Grito celebration, said Kate Borders, president of the Downtown Fresno Partnership, which organized the event along with Univision.
Food booths selling tacos, burritos, corn, pupusas and a variety of lemonades set up along the mall between Kern and Fresno streets to serve hungry festival-goers. Vendors also sold Mexican crafts and jewelry.
The fiesta was the first large event to be held on the mall since the city received a nearly $16 million federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant to help pay for the opening of the mall to cars.
Residents have raised concerns over whether opening the mall to traffic will hurt festivals such as the fiesta, but the reality is that it will make events easier to coordinate, Borders said.
The design process will allow the planning committee to figure out how best to rebuild the street for public events, Borders said.
"Nobody has to worry about their favorite festival going away," she said.
That's good news for Stephanie Soto of Fresno, who attends the festival every year with her family and friends for the food and music.
"We come just to have fun," Soto said. "It has to do with our culture."
Lizama said she has been attending ever since the festival was held at Arte Americas, the Latino cultural arts center on Van Ness Avenue. Her daughter, Jennifer, 9, enjoys coming every year too.
When asked what she likes the most, she smiles and says, "everything," while licking an ice cream cone.
"I like to teach my kids so they learn something," Lizama said, "so they know how we celebrate Independence Day."
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