As Mexicans celebrated Mexico’s independence Thursday night at Civic Center, five activists ran onstage and interrupted the festivities to advocate for one homeless Mexican man who San Francisco police shot and killed in San Francisco’s Mission District in April.

The Master of Ceremonies quickly ceded the microphone.

“The consulate promised us that there would be an investigation, that they would take the case to the embassy, so that there would be justice,” said activist Adriana Camarena who ran onstage with to Luis Poot Pat, Gongora Pat’s cousin.

Poot Pat had spent the hour prior to their appearance on stage talking to people in the crowd and handing out flyers asking for justice.

“I’m always proud of the Mexican representation in San Francisco, but very sad that no one talks about the mistreatments we Latinos suffer because we have no representatives,” he said in an interview.

Like Gongora Pat, Poot was born in the Yucatan. He arrived in the Mission in 1989 and although he has risen to manage a restaurant, he is still undocumented, and active in protests against “racism, poor wages and rising rents.”

Most exasperating of it all, he said, are politicians who are unwilling to represent his cause, allowing his compatriots to be submitted to poor conditions. He looked at presidential candidate Donald Trump’s recent visit to Mexico as an indication of the state of Mexican politics.

“I still don’t understand what the Mexican government was thinking, letting this bloke [Trump] in its house after being continually humiliated,” he lamented. “With today’s corruption, I can imagine a millionaire [Trump] paid him [president Peña Nieto].”

For his part, consul Gemi José González López said later that the consulate is working with the local police department and with the state Attorney General to advance reforms.

After the advocates left the stage, the consul, González López, addressed the crowd.

“¡Mexicanos! ¡Viva la independencia! ¡Vivan los héroes que nos dieron patria!,” he cried, before reciting the names of all the Independence heroes celebrated on this day.

The ceremony is part of an annual recreation of “El Grito de Dolores” (The Cry of Dolores), uttered by Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla on September 16, 1810. It is the cry that inspired the successful Mexican revolt against Spanish rule. The patriotic shout, known as El Grito, is repeated annually on the night of the 15th by the Mexican president, top local officers and, outside of the country, ambassadors and consuls.

Those in attendance, some 300 people, were draped in Mexican flags and San Francisco Giants attire. Through the cold and the wind, they kept dancing, singing and instructing their American-born kids about every regional dance on stage.“It’s a joy to remember how important it is to keep our traditions alive,” said Enrique Urrutia, native of Mexico City who has been living in San Francisco for 25 years.

A few feet away, his 8-year-old nephew – like many other kids at the celebration – was tapping his feet on the ground, mimicking the folk dancers on stage.“We always speak Spanish at home, and it’s beautiful to share with him the tradition we grew up with,” he added.

The celebration earlier in the day. Photo by Liliana Michelena

Laura Wenus contributed to this report. 

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