Presidio, Ojinaga celebrate Mexican Independence Day

PRESIDIO —  Around 100 people congregated in the Presidio Activity Center last weekend to commemorate Mexican Independence Day, which fell on September 16.

For at least the past ten years, officials with the Consulate of Mexico in Presidio have invited the public to come experience Mexican culture and share in food and drink.

Sergio Francisco Salinas Meza, the consul of Mexico in Presidio, said in an email that everyone in the broader region was welcome to attend, adding that the event was “not only for the communities of Presidio and Ojinaga.”

“This is the most important celebration for Mexicans,” he said, describing the Presidio celebration as “a single community sharing culture.”

Guests and performers came from Presidio and Mexico. Mexican acts included Baile Folklórico (folkloric dance) performers from Chihuahua City and a high school marching band from Colegio de Bachilleres del Estado de Chihuahua Plantel 22 (or “Cobach 22” for short).

Flor Rangel, a 15-year-old at the school, said the group had practiced for four hours every day for three weeks — “walking and singing and all that” — just to get ready for the occasion.

For the group of around two dozen students, it had been a long few weeks. “We are so tired,” Rangel said, in English.

On the U.S. side, a mariachi group called “Mariachi Santa Cruz,” with Presidio Mayor John Ferguson on the trumpet, played Mexican ballads like “La Basurita” and “Cariño.” Ferguson, first elected in 2013, has been coming to this event long before becoming mayor, he said.

“Because I’m a musician, we always seem to be involved,” he said.

Marfa Public Radio tabled at the event to celebrate its new broadcast in Presidio. (See: “Marfa Public Radio arrives in Presidio”) Elise Pepple, general manager for the station, gave a speech in Spanish, saying the station was “very glad to serve this community.”

“That night was one of the most beautiful nights that I’ve ever experienced in the Big Bend,” she told The Big Bend Sentinel. “I felt very lucky that our station got to be a small part of it.”

A consul-sponsored celebration like this isn’t unique to Presidio. Other consulates in the region also have celebrations, Presidio Consul Salinas Meza said.

But the celebration may have extra significance in Presidio-Ojinaga, which Presidio officials say is one community with a national border (and the Rio Grande) splitting it.

“The river joins us,” Brad Newton, executive director of the Presidio Municipal Development District, told The Big Bend Sentinel at the event. “It doesn’t separate us.”

Mayor Ferguson described the event as “good for us all.”

“My goodness, 30+ years ago you didn’t see much in the way of true celebrations of this kind in the United States,” he said. “That, to me, shows an embrace of different cultures. And I think people discover it’s kinda fun. It’s interesting.”

Molly Ferguson, his daughter, sings in the mariachi band. She works in Presidio but lives in Ojinaga, because she’s struggled to get a visa for her husband to live in the United States. (President Donald Trump has worked to shrink the number of visas, most recently by barring green card applicants who could become a “public charge.”)

“I go on my bike because the line’s so big and I can’t risk coming to work late,” she said. “It’s so weird for me, the concept of crossing.”

She likes living in Ojinaga, though. The city, around seven times the size of Presidio, is laidback and fun, she said. There are often events in the parks, and the food is delicious — so long as you know where to eat.

“Once I cross over into Ojinaga, I can take a breath,” she said.