This coming weekend, Madisonians (and people around the nation) will celebrate Mexico’s 208th Independence Day and it will all kick off with ‘El Grito de la Independencia’ (Cry of Independence) in honor of Catholic priest Miguel Hidalgo’s first call to arms that were made in the village of Dolores, in the state of Guanajuato.

“That’s my favorite part of the event – el grito, the official ceremony,” says Lupita Monoto, who along with her husband, Luis, organize the Viva México Festival in Madison every year. “Being on stage you can see a number of people in our community who are involved and having a collaboration with the Madison Police Department, the Fitchburg Police and Fire Department, Amigos en Azul, and then having people from the Common Council from Fitchburg and Madison. Having all of these officials in front of so many Latinos and Mexicans to commemorate and celebrate one more year of independence … that’s my favorite part.”

The Montotos are owners of La Movida Radio, the hosts of the event that will take place on Sunday, Sept. 16, starting at noon. The Viva México Festival line-up includes great musical acts, delicious Mexican food, kids’ activities, traditional Latino folk dancers, exhibits, face painting, a cultural area, information, and more.

Viva Mexico Festival at Breese Stevens Stadium

Lupita Montoto says that they like to provide the opportunity for local non-profits to have a presence at the festival.

“We really want non-profit organizations to be part of the festival and to come out and have a booth and bring their information and share what they do,” she says. “Groups like UNIDOS Against Domestic Violence, Centro Hispano, Latino Chamber, Latino Academy are usually there. We’re always looking for new non-profits to come.”

The Montotos started this event even before they became a 24/7 Spanish language radio station – La Movida’s 16th anniversary will be next month.

“That first one was held at the Villager Mall. We got the crowd there and we had a lot of cars and were waving Mexican flags,” Lupita Montoto remembers.

“It’s really evolved over the years. Back in the day, we didn’t have the stage and it wasn’t as big. We would just use the car system and say ‘Viva Mexico!’ … el grito. It was kind of crazy back then,” Luis Montoto adds, smiling.

Over the years, it has evolved into a really big event. This is the second year in a row it will be held at Breese Stevens Stadium on Madison’s near east side.

Grupo Bryndis will headline Viva Mexico Festival.

“We’ve got a really big band coming in this year. They’re a national headliner called Grupo Bryndis,” Luis Montoto says. “Viva Mexico has always been free to get into for the community but this year we’re getting a lot of questions about whether there is going to be a cover charge because of the big band.”

“But there isn’t!” Lupita Montoto chimes in. “We never charge. It always has been free.”

Viva Mexico Festival starts out every year with a parade.

“It starts with the parade like it always does and then at noon we will have the special proclamation that will be read by [alders] Shiva [Bidar] and Julia [Aratta-Frata]. And then we’ll have people from the Mexican Consulate who will be doing the official ceremony of independence and the grito.
Lupita Montoto (left) with alder Shiva Bidar at last year’s Viva Mexico Festival

Luis Montoto admits that is a lot of work to put this event together every year.

“But when you go around and see so many people enjoying themselves at the event … that makes it worthwhile,” he says. “It’s very rewarding. I’ve always been the type of person who gets satisfaction out of seeing people have fun and the families and kids enjoying themselves.”

Viva México Festival 2018 is not just an event for Mexicans, the Montotos stress, it’s an event for the whole community.

“I think it’s convenient for a lot of Madisonians to be having it at Breese Stevens Stadium. It is very centrally located and easy for everybody to reach,” Lupita Montoto says. “It’s a place that people are familiar with and just a nice venue.”

For many in Madison, Viva México Festival 2018 signifies the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15-Oct. 15) where multiple countries celebrate their declared independence days including Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, Mexico, Chile and Belize.

“Ideally, I would like to make this festival about all of the [Latin American] countries that celebrate their independence right around this time,” says Luis Montoto. “I think, ultimately, I would like to make this event more of an international event and not just Viva Mexico. I think that would be really cool.”