Chicago calls for safety as city prepares for Mexican Independence Day events following problems last year

The city of Chicago is warning revelers planning to attend next week’s Mexican Independence Day festivities to keep roads clear and refrain from drag racing and other illegal activity ahead of the Sept. 16 holiday, after last year’s celebrations were marred by two men getting shot and others being robbed and carjacked.

The Office of Emergency Management and Communications said in a statement Wednesday that those commemorating the holiday this year must “be respectful of their neighbors and communities, as well as workers at critical facilities such as hospitals. They should also be mindful of first responders and emergency vehicles that are required to pass through areas where celebrations are occurring citywide.”

“Car caravans that create a threat to public safety will not be tolerated,” spokesperson Mary May said in the statement. “We also remind everyone that drag racing and drifting are not only illegal, but dangerous. Anyone in violation of the ordinance will be held accountable.”

Each year, tens of thousands of revelers and cars donning Mexican flags and the red, white and green colors of Mexico gather downtown during the weekend in celebration of the global holiday. Mexican independence has special resonance in the Chicago area because it is home to one of the nation’s largest populations of Mexican immigrants.

But last year, car caravans and drag racing left the Loop in gridlock and jammed up workers trying to get to their destinations.

The chaos culminated that Saturday in early morning shootings, brawls with cops and a robbery and a carjacking. The next day, Chicago police brass announced some road closures to prevent further nights of gridlock, but downtown roads remained congested at night for the rest of the weekend.

The city said this year, however, it is “taking the appropriate measures to ensure the safety of all residents around Mexican Independence Day commemoration activities” that have long been a cherished tradition in Chicago, both downtown and in Mexican American enclaves such as Pilsen and Little Village. The Chicago area is home to nearly 3 million Latinos and 75% of them are of Mexican descent, according to a report by the University of Illinois at Chicago and Metropolitan Family Services.

The consul general of Mexico in Chicago, Reyna Torres, said in a statement Thursday that those participating in Mexican Independence Day events should “do so responsibly.”

“Please be mindful of your neighbors, respect traffic regulations and follow the safety measures put in place by local authorities,” Torres said. “We are festive, proud and respectful. We know how to celebrate, and we know how to do it responsibly. Viva Mexico!”

The Little Village Chamber of Commerce will host its annual parade down West 26th Street at noon Sept. 16 — the first time the chamber is celebrating on the actual date of the holiday, and this year participants will represent the state in Mexico they hail from in their floats, outfits and more. The parade, one of the largest in the Midwest, begins at the Little Village Arch on 26th Street and South Albany Avenue before heading west.

“We are looking forward to celebrating such an important event with the community for the first time on Mexican Independence Day, Sept. 16,” said Blanca Soto, former chief operating officer of the Little Village Chamber of Commerce. “Safety, like every year, remains our highest priority and we plan to deliver a safe and fun parade for our residents and visitors to enjoy.”

Traditionally, jubilant cruising was focused throughout city neighborhoods. But during President Donald Trump’s administration, many revelers began to drive downtown to Trump Tower with Mexican flags waving and Spanish songs blasting from speakers as a stand against his anti-immigrant rhetoric and comments about Mexican immigrants.

“Mexican Independence Day is a day of commemoration of culture and the City of Chicago encourages those celebrating to do so safely and responsibly,” the city wrote.