EL CENTROÂ â€” El Centro’sÂ Stark Field was the site for the 9th annual â€œGrito de Independenciaâ€ festival Saturday night that commemorated Mexicoâ€™s independence from Spain in 1810. The event was highlighted with several local students receiving college scholarships sponsored by community members and businesses.
Gerardo Venegas, a local radio and television personality, was the Master of Ceremonies of the event that was sponsored by the city of El Centro and by Carlos Flores, the Consulate General of Mexico in Calexico. Â
Hundreds assembled near the stage on a pleasant 87 degree night to observe the flag ceremony and take part in the traditional â€œGrito de Doloresâ€ (Cry of Dolores).
Historically, the â€œGritoâ€ was the pronouncement of the Mexican War of Independence near the city of Guanajuato by Catholic Priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla in 1810.
â€œIndependence was declared to improve the quality of life with respect and dignity inside and outside of Mexicoâ€™s borders. That is why it is valid, in appreciation and retribution, to recognize that group of men and women who sacrificed their lives to create Mexico,â€ explained Consulate General Carlos Flores as he initiated â€œEl Gritoâ€.
Promptly after Consulate Floresâ€™ speech, the second annual â€œBâ€ de Becas Award Ceremony followed.
Venegas, along with sponsors Discount Stereo, J&S Parts, Rubenâ€™s Raspados, Payless Auto Insurance, Ubaldo Bermudez Allstate, Patricia Parilla, and Guadalajaraâ€™s Restaurant, also collaborated to raise scholarship funds for college-bound Imperial Valley high school seniors.
This year, seven students were awarded $200, $300, or $400 checks to use as they wish. The students included four from Southwest High School, Ivan Beltran, Kenia Verduzco, Savine Castro, and Andrea Ramirez, and three students from Calexico High, including Andy Rojas, Jenisa Quintero, and Anthony Avilez. The winners were selected by their own counselors based on their academics and extracurricular activities.
â€œThe money is not limited to school supplies,” said Venegas. “The kids can use the money for anything that will help them pursue their education after high school; even if itâ€™s just for a pair of shoes or groceries.â€
Southwest Senior Andrea Ramirez, 17, was among the recipients. â€œI plan to attend UC Berkeley or Cornell University to pursue a career in architecture,” Ramirez said. “I might use the money for a trip to Chicago to perform with our school orchestra.â€
In 2015, El Centro Mayor Cheryl Viegas Walker named September 20 as Gerardo Venegas Day in El Centro based on his successful 26 year career as a local broadcasting sensation.
Venegas, along with several sponsors, then decided to give back to the community by utilizing the â€œEl Grito de Independenciaâ€ venue as a platform to launch the â€œBâ€ de Becas campaign, a play on words from his television show (on channel 66) and radio show (99.3 fm) â€œVâ€ de Venegas.