On September 16, 1810, priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla called Mexican people to act against the Spanish government and strive for independence. Although a movement toward Mexican independence had already been in progress since Napoleon’s conquest of Spain, Hidalgo’s passionate declaration was a swift, unpremeditated decision. “Mexicanos, Viva México!” Hidalgo told the Mexicans who were the members of New Spain’s lowest caste.

Over 200 years later, “Viva México!” will be the cry at Viva México Festival on Sunday at the Alliant Energy Center. The event will once again be hosted by La Movida Radio 1480 AM, the first and only all-Spanish radio station in Madison.

“This is our 15th year for the Viva México Festival, can you believe it?” asks Lupita Montoto, co-owner of La Movida Radio along with husband Luis Montoto. “Every one of them has been fun. It’s like a little bit of Mexico right here in Madison. The main idea is to keep up with Mexican traditions, especially during this month because of the Mexican Independence Day and how huge that is in our culture. We’ve been doing this for so many years and we are so happy with the response from the community for this event.”

For 15 years, the Latino community has made Viva México Festival the premiere event in Madison. The day starts with a car parade, reading of the proclamation, the time-honored “El Grito de Delores” and this year the festival will welcome the Mexican consulate from Milwaukee to the event.

“The parade is fun. Everybody can join in on that. That is very special when someone does the ‘Viva, Mexico!’ and we call out the name of the heroes. That is a very unique thing to do. That is only done in Mexico by the higher representatives and the president,” Montoto told Madison365. “It’s wonderful that I have the opportunity to do it here. I’m excited to do it.”

Every year, Montoto does “El Grito de Dolores” to kick off the event. “El grito” was first proclaimed by Hidalgo from the small town of Dolores, near Guanajuato in Mexico, on September 16, 1810, and is considered the beginning of the Mexican War of Independence.

Viva México Festival entertainment will also include traditional Folkloric dancers, bands, contests, the crowning of Miss Viva México and more.

“It’s a fiesta. It’s a really fun event,” Montoto said. “It’s a celebration of Mexican Independence Day but so many other South American countries are also celebrating their independence days around that time, too. We wanted to create a celebration not just for Mexican Independence Day but to celebrate with other countries in Central and South America.

“Everybody is welcome — gringos like yourself,” Montoto adds, laughing. “The main thing is to get everybody together to taste a little bit of Mexican culture and celebrate one of the most important dates in Mexican history.”

The 2016 Viva México Festival will present five fun contests including the “Best Decorated Automobile” contest sponsored by Smart Motors; “Traje Típicio,” sponsored by Voz Latina Newspaper; “Taco eating contest,” sponsored by La Rosita Latina; “El Grito de Independencia,” sponsored by Ramos Tax & Services; and “Jalapeño-eating contest,” sponsored by Paradise Island.

The festival will have a very special guest, Consul Julián Adem Díaz de León, who is heading the new consulate of México in the City of Milwaukee. Díaz de León has 23 staff members that provide services by appointment to at least 150 Mexican nationals per day.

“We’re very happy to have a consulate in Wisconsin and he is confirmed to come and also do ‘el grito’ at the event,” Montoto said. “This is big to have him here. We usually do the grito at noon, but we often repeat it again at 6 p.m. in the evening because there are many people who keep coming and arriving to the festival all day long.”

“For me as a Mexican, and being at the only 100 percent Mexican radio station, La Movida, it feels great to honor Mexican Independence Day,” Montoto said. “It’s honoring my heritage, and brings me back to all of those memories as a child when I used to do the dances and the celebrations at school in Mexico. Having small pieces of those memories and putting them together at a festival makes me feel so great.”

The festival has moved around to several locations throughout its 15 years including Oregon, Sun Prairie, Willow Island, and the Alliant Energy Center.

“We started with an informal car parade where people gathered in the evening at the Villager Mall,” Montoto said. “We were just there hanging out there with friends and listening to Mexican music. After that, we started doing the car parade and more of a formal festival.”

Every year, Viva México Festival encourages local non-profit organizations to be a part of the event by offering information about their services to the public from within the festival’s grounds. “We have so many non-profits and local organizations that want to be at the event this year,” Montoto said. “It’s great to see that kind of community response.”

Montoto stresses that the 2016 Viva México Festival is a free cultural and family event promoting Mexican heritage and is open to everyone, young and old, and from all walks of life.

“In the Mexican culture there are many things to celebrate and to be happy about and to learn from,” Montoto said. “You will see families dressing up with the very traditional costumes. You will see many types of traditional dancers representing different states of Mexico. You will taste delicious Mexican food and Mexican desserts. It’s going to be a fun, family-friendly event with plenty of music and culture. Everybody is very welcome … and its free!

“Every year, we not only get a lot of people from the Latino community but also from the non-Latino community,” she said. “So we’re expecting a big crowd this year once again.”

For more information about the 2016 Viva México Festival, contact Lupita Montoto at lupita.montoto@lamovidaradio.com.