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by alex dobuzinskis
Tuesday, Sep. 18, 2001 at 1:52 AM
At Olvera Plaza yesterday night, a crowd of about 5,000 Latinos gathered for a vigil to commememorate those who died in Tuesday's tragedy and show their support for the United States. One of the participants told me the event took the place of a celebration of Mexico's Independence Day.
I heard them from many blocks away as I drove to work on Saturday night. People chanting, cheering, and overflowing a plaza in the middle of downtown Los Angeles.
"Viva Los Estados Unidos!," the voice boomed over the microphone. Thousands cheered. I got a parking place and made my way down the crowded street to see what was going on. When I got to the sight of the rally at Olvera Plaza, I saw at least 5,000 Latinos (security estimated the crowd at 10,000) carrying candles and waving American flags. In the middle of the plaza, a succession of speakers was talking to the crowd from a pavillion. "Este pais extraordinario... Los Estados Unidos," the man said. "Nosotros leader, el Presidente George Bush." More cheering. Walking around the plaza I saw people of all ages, many of them carrying candles or waving flags. A lot of people were carrying three flags at the same time, an American flag, a Mexican flag, and a white cloth to symbolize Peace.
On stage, a woman sang "Ave Maria" to commemorate the people who died in Tuesday's attacks. Later on, the crowd began chanting "U.S.A., U.S.A."
"You can tell by everyone here, mostly everyone is Latino, they're happy to be here to show their support," said Fernando Guzman, 18 of Los Angeles, who was there with his family. "If you want to come to one vigil, this is the vigil to come to."
The event was organized by 101.9, a Spanish language radio station. It was attended by Los Angelinos from all over Latin America.
At Reina de Los Angeles, a nearby church, people were filing by to light candles and pay their respects to those who were killed in Tuesday's attack.
"I am from Mexico city and I live in this country for 33 years and this is my country too, so I feel the same way," said Juan Benitez, 58, who immigrated to the United States in 1966. "Today is the day for our celebration in Mexico city, but we cancelled all that, we don't care nothing about celebrating the liberty of Mexico. We come here to pray for people who died and what happened."
I asked the man if the celebration could be seen as a combined celebration for the United States and Mexico, since a lot of people were carrying the flags of both countries at the same time. "No, no, we not combined, we not celebrating, we here to pray for the happiness," he said.
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