• A dancer and horse riders at a parade

      Latino Heritage Parade, 2022 (Photos – Susana Porras)

      My Dearest Pasadena,
      I invite you to the Pasadena Latino Heritage Parade and Festival on Saturday, September 16, 2023.

      My parents immigrated to the United States in the 1970’s fleeing the violence of the Guatemalan Civil War, and they arrived in the city of roses, Pasadena, California. I grew up in an idyllic neighborhood near a beautiful park, surrounded by storybook houses and near the iconic Art Deco water fountain on the southeast corner of Glenarm Street and Fair Oaks Avenue.

      By Susana Porras

      Pasadena was wonderful, but my parents yearned to visit their homeland, and by 1987 their country had reached a level of stability where my parents felt it was safe for me to travel with them. The Golden Age of flying had been over for almost two decades, however, some remnants of it still remained, like the perfectly coiffed stewardesses, wearing flawless make up and recently pressed baby blue uniforms. I boarded what would be my first and last round-trip Pan Am flight. Within a few years, the world’s largest international carrier would officially dissolve.

      During that four-and-a-half-hour flight I was given my first pair of wings and I was hooked. It was the first of many summers I would spend in Guatemala touring everything from the Black Christ of Esquipulas to the Afro-Caribbean Town of Livingston. Those regular trips eventually stopped. It’s been 20 years to the day since my last visit to Guatemala, but it feels like I never left.

      My mom on occasion cooked spaghetti, but other than that every dish was Guatemalan; hilachas, frijoes frijoles negros con chicharron, caldo de res, chirmol, rellenitos, and tamales con hoja de platano (shredded beef stew, black beans with pork rinds, beef bone soup, salsa, plantains stuffed with black beans, and tamales wrapped in plantain leaves). When my mom was no longer well enough to cook, my dad picked up the apron. Growing up we were constantly visited by paisanos albeit family, friends or neighbors and the house was wall papered in Guatemalan trinkets and textiles. My familiarity with Guatemala made it easy for me to spot a paisano, and Pasadena has many who call it home, some more notable than others. Those of you reading this may have enjoyed a cup of Jones Coffee or a taco from La Estrella, both Guatemalan families.

      flags of different nations and a group representing a community garden

      Latino Heritage Parade, 2022 (Photos – Susana Porras)

      Guatemala and Pasadena

      I am not sure why there’s such a deep rooted connection between Guatemala and Pasadena, however, I venture to say that it may be due to their love and admiration for all things American as well as being hard core Tournament of Roses fans. Living just a couple of blocks from the start of the parade route, my parents never missed an opportunity to gawk at the rose covered mobile works of art, and our family back home never missed watching it on television. Their appreciation for the event has been so great that two Guatemalan floats have graced Colorado Boulevard as well as the Pedro Molina Latin Band in 2010. Watching the 200+ member band proudly marching and performing the traditional marimba tunes of El Ferrocarril de los Altos (The Railway of the Heights) and Luna de Xelajú (Moon of Xelajú) made me tear up and get a lump in my throat as did the thousands of Central Americans who turned out to brave the early morning cold to cheer them on.

      The Pasadena Latino Heritage Parade turns 25 this year. Its theme Alcanzando Estrellas (Reaching for the Stars) pays homage to all Latin Americans who have come to the United States to do just that. The official logo, a globe held by two hands showcases each Latin American flag and a silver star for each year the parade has been active.

      And so my dearest Pasadena, if you wish to get a little taste of Guatemala and the rest of Latin America you’re just in time to dust off your dance shoes and join me in a Samba, a Rumba, or Cha-Cha-Cha at the Pasadena Latino Heritage Parade and Festival on Saturday, September 16, 2023 at 10:00 am starting at the intersection of Los Robles Avenue/Buckeye Street and ending at Pasadena City Hall.

      Con mucho cariño, (with love)
      Susana Porras

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