PEORIA (WEEK) -- Many gathered in Peoria Wednesday night to celebrate Mexican Independence Day, which coincides with the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month.
Andres Diaz attended the celebrations with his family and is an advocate for Peoria's Hispanic community. He says its important for community members to advocate and celebrate their culture.
"We continue to see people from every walk of life joining us at the park, and joining and celebrating the Hispanic culture," Diaz said.
The celebrations included plenty of music and food as well as a procession around Glen Oak Park.
Mexican Independence Day is observed on September 16, and celebrates the beginning of their battle for independence from Spain.
Diaz hopes the larger celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month helps people of all Hispanic cultures step into the spotlight, especially within the Peoria community.
"It's mainstreaming of the Latino culture and integrating ourselves into our community in Peoria," Diaz said.
Census data for 2020 shows Peoria County's Hispanic population has grown by more than 40 percent over the last decade. Diaz says that makes celebrations of their culture even more important. He says the best way to celebrate is supporting locally owned Latino businesses.
"Celebrate just like you would on St. Patrick's Day, going out and getting Corned Beef and Cabbage," Diaz said. Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. Go get yourself some tacos. Get yourself some great food."