PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Cultural flare and celebratory pride-filled Peoria’s air Wednesday night.

Peorians kicked off Hispanic Heritage month with a celebration of Mexican Independence.

Hundreds of people waved their flags, revved their car engines, and screamed “¡Viva México!”, meaning “Long live Mexico!” from the top of their lungs.

Mexican Independence Day is nationally recognized on Sept. 16, as the anniversary of Mexico’s declaration of independence from Spain.

On Sept. 16, 1810, Miguel Hidalgo Y Costilla, a catholic priest and revolutionary leader, made the first cry of independence. He launched the Mexican War of Independence, which ended centuries of Spanish rule by 1821.

Maria Miranda organized Peoria’s celebration Wednesday night. She said a typical way to honor the holiday is by celebrating “El Grito de Dolores” also known as “The Cry of Dolores” on Sep. 15.

“El Grito is when Miguel Hidalgo the priest, the catholic priest Miguel Hidalgo, screamed ‘Viva Mexico’ after we won the Independence from Spain,” Miranda said.

Now, those of Mexican descent use that day to proudly embrace their culture, boasting it on full display.

Many natives of Mexico, such as Jose Rodriguez, a volunteer with the Greater Peoria Chamber of Commerce, said the celebration feels like bringing a piece of home with them to Peoria.

“It feels great to get the community together to be able to celebrate Mexican Independence Day away from your home country,” Rodriguez said.

Miranda said it’s also very sentimental to be able to celebrate the holiday in the River City, especially in the era of COVID-19.

“Because of what’s going on right now, we can’t go to Mexico,” Miranda said. “A lot of us here can’t even go to Mexico because of other reasons, too. So, to be able to celebrate here is a very nice feeling.”

Those who came out Wednesday celebrated with dancing, food, shopping, dancing horses, a live band, and a caravan of cars as far as the eye could see.

The caravan started on North Prospect Road and made its way to Glen Oak Park to close out the festivities, in typical fiesta tradition.

Christell Frausto, president of the Greater Peoria Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said the large turnout screamed unity.

“This is very exciting because our population is growing in Peoria as well as businesses,” Frausto said. “We’re preserving the culture as well as educating people on our countries.”

Frausto also thanked the Peoria Park District and the Peoria Police Department for helping make the celebration possible. She said she hopes Wednesday’s event was just the beginning of more events to grow for next year so they can be inclusive of other countries.

Miranda said she wanted the overall message to be simple: keep the culture and traditions alive.