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Passing on culture, traditions to new generation

By Frank X. Moraga


While it may look easy putting on a colorful costume and walking up on the stage in the hopes of winning the approval of judges, the annual Fiestas Patrias contest is anything but.

The young people, selected from applicants from throughout the 805 region, must take a crash course in the cultural, economic, political and social history of the Mexican states they represent.

“Once they apply for say, Jalisco, they then have a lot of homework,” said Rafael M. Hernandez, secretary of public relations for the Comite Cultural Mexicano.

“They really need to research the history of that state, when the state was formed, why was it named that way, how big is the population, what is the most important thing about that state business-wise, what kind of government do they have, past and present? It’s a very wide variety of things they learn and it then gives them a better chance to win.”

Contestants must then work with family and community members to create costumes that meet the spirit and traditions of the states they represent, be it Aguascalientes, Districto Federal, Estado de México, Guanajuato, Jalisco, Michoacán, Sinaloa or Zacatecas.

“They must create an original costume and that is very hard to represent,” Hernandez said. “They really need to feel it in their heart.”

Contestants must then be prepared to go on stage and become a virtual tour guide of their states, speaking in front of a crowd that approached the 700-seat capacity of Pacifica High School in Oxnard.

“They have to have knowledge of that state and then express the knowledge they have,” he said. “They are promoting their states.”

Only then will they be chosen as the winner of the traditional costume contest / Certamen Señorita Fiestas Patrias Traje Típico.

On Aug. 25, it was Estephanie Vázquez, representing Districto Federal, the capital of México, who won the traditional costume contest. For contestants, the event moved them a step closer to the crowning of the Fiestas Patrias queen, which will take place at a gala dinner / Cena-Gala de Coronación on Sept. 7 at the Ventura Beach Marriott Hotel.

The queen and her court will then lead upcoming Fiestas Patrias events including the Fiesta in the Plaza / Fiesta en la Palcita de Oxnard on Saturday, Sept. 14 at Plaza Park in downtown Oxnard; the Fiestas Patrias 2013 parade / Desfile Commemorativo at 11 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 15 on C Street in downtown Oxnard; and the traditional Cry for Independence / Grito de Independencia at 7 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 15 at Plaza Park in downtown Oxnard.

Besides Vázquez, contestants this year include Daisy Ramirez, representing Aguascalientes; Emely Báez (Estado de México); Jocelyn González (Michoacán); Martha Alicia Lona (Guanajuato); Marina Zetina (Sinaloa); Erica Reyes (Zacatecas); and Brenda Topete (Jalisco).

Planning for this year’s Fiestas Patrias celebration began in February, Hernandez said.

Members of the Comite Cultural Mexicano include Cecilia Martínez, president; Héctor Pelayo, vice president; Victor Martínez, secretary; Dolores Ochoa, treasurer; Hernandez and Melissa Vargas, the 2012 Fiestas Patrias queen.

“This is not an easy thing to put together,” Hernandez said. “It takes a lot of effort and time, coordination with the mayor and the chief of police, getting the permits and coordinating with the community.”

As an example…

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