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Fiestas Pateticas: A Festival Gone Too Independent

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For those who don't know, I am an LA outsider, which is why my assumption of Santa Ana -- or Orange County, Anaheim, Disneyland, Duke Ville, and whatever other name this area has -- consisted of a bright white jumble of luxury homes and cookie-cut cars...or is it the other way around? Anyway, I was struck by the quaintness and appeal of the downtown area when I arrived there on Saturday for the Mexican Independence Day festival.

What I was not impressed by was the festival itself. Most notably nausea-invoking was the commercialization of the event. Now this isn't uncommon for holidays and can actually be done in an acceptable way. However, from the promotional website to the performance stage to the taquerias I was bombarded by solicitations for real estate agents, lawyers, energy drinks and even Coffee Mate. We Americans do commercialization/commoditization well, but Mexicans don't -- and for good reason.

Perhaps this contributed to the overall lack of a genuine sense of Mexico. Granted, we're not in Mexico but I know countless spots in this metropolis that might make you forget that. Furthering this dilemma was the people themselves: vatos locos, straight-out-of-the-desert immigrants, non-Mexican Latinos, a few fresas and a few bums. In other words, I never got the sense that they were all celebrating together.

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Certainly this is partly a result of preexistent tensions among Latinos before trekking it to the other side -- nationality, ethnicity, and class among others. Or perhaps it's an instinct of non-trust among immigrants, derived from our (as in the rest of us non-immigrants) recent and outspoken antagonism toward immigrants. Or maybe it was a general lack of luster and life from this arguably indifferent and submerged group of people.

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