The annual Viva Mexico Festival will take place on Sunday, Sept. 17 at Breese Stevens Field on Madison’s near east side. The festival, which commemorates Mexico’s independence from Spain, has traditionally been a big hit drawing thousands of people each year.

In 2017, however, the festival is more important than ever. Many in the Hispanic community feel like they are under direct assault from the office of the President of the United States. Just last week, President Trump assailed the DACA program that protects children of immigrants. It is one more problem that adds on to the rhetoric about wall building and who does or doesn’t belong in America.

A little girl celebrates at last year’s Viva Mexico Festival.

Luís and Lupita Montoto, owners of La Movida 1480 AM radio, have been hosting the Viva Mexico Festival for 16 years. This is the first year the festival will be held at Breese Stevens Field after many wonderful years at the Alliant Energy Center. The Montotos say they are excited about having the celebration at Breese Stevens Field and look forward to having a downtown vibe at the festival.

“For our sponsors and vendors, having the space at Breese Stevens Field will make things a bit easier,” said Luís Montoto.

They are expecting 8,000-10,000 people to show up for the festival. It will start around 10 am but the real beginning of the festival will be the parade of cars arriving at Breese Stevens.

Lupita Montoto (second from right) with Trío Figueroa at a previous Viva México Festival: Beto, Titina and Paco Figueroa

There will be a contest and rewards for the person with the best-decorated car. The parade of cars starts at Villager Mall on South Park Street and will roll towards Breese Stevens. The person with the most original and best-decorated car will get lots of respect, and maybe even a prize.

“The cars arriving at Breese Stevens Field will start the festival,” says Luís Montoto. “We give an award for the best-decorated car. That has caught on pretty well! Someone had a church on the top of their car one year.”

Lupita Montoto says that Mexican heritage should be the theme of the car decorations.

“The car rally is a tradition from Mexico,” she said. “During the rally, people decorate their vehicles with symbols from Mexico. There are many ideas for people. The flag, piñatas. Every year it’s very creative.”

The car rally will be sponsored by Metro Ford of Madison. Zimbrick will also host a raffle and give away a brand new free car to the winner.

Viento Y Sol, Los Rodarte, La Sonora Dinomita, Efecto Exlusivo, Gigi Mijares and Cheyennes De La Sierra are the announced bands that will be providing music during the festival. There will also be traditional dance troupes providing entertainment and, of course, plenty of vendors with tasty Mexican and South American food.

At noon, Júlian Adem Díaz De León from the Mexican Consulate in Milwaukee will perform an official inauguration ceremony. Having representation from the Consulate has provided a big boost to the Festival in recent years.

“It’s very important and we’d like to highlight that for the second year in a row we’re having the Mexican Consulate here,” Luís Montoto says. “He will be here doing the official ceremony at noon along with Chief [Mike] Koval and Mayor [Paul] Soglin. We’ll be singing the Mexican anthem as well as the American national anthem, along with a presentation of the Mexican flag and the flag of Wisconsin.”

A previous Viva México Festival

The Montotos say Díaz De León will deliver a message to people to keep working, to strive, to survive, and represent the heritage. His message is expected to resonate, in particular, with people at the festival who can feel the temperature being turned up against many in their community.

“I think, definitely, the festival will help to change a little bit of the feeling of our community with what’s going on with our government,” Lupita Montoto says. “We want people to come and join us and celebrate with us. This is a great opportunity to be united. Everyone is welcome.”

Luís Montoto agrees, adding that political overtones will only help in getting people to see how much a united community matters.

“For many families, it is hard to describe what is happening right now,” he said. “Disappointment, fear and not knowing what the future holds. Scared of the President of the United States. And with all the rhetoric going on right now it’s so evident that there is a racist in the White House. Pardoning Sherriff Joe and now with DACA. Within the Latino community, it is self-evident. We hope our festival has a positive point. We want to change the rhetoric.”