The City of Perris annual multicultural festival Sept. 24 featured lots of music and dancing, colorfully dressed charros (cowboys) riding well-groomed and well-trained horses, and the appearance of dignitaries from the sister city of Cotija in the Mexican state of Michoacán.
The celebration also marked the 33rd anniversary of the founding of the Perris-based TODEC (Training Occupational Development Educating Communities) Legal Center, which has assisted migrant communities in Riverside, San Bernardino and Imperial counties through citizenship, vocational training and basic education classes.
Founded by Perris residents Luz Maria and Antonio Ayala, the center also provides legal aid, Mexican art and history classes. TODEC’s goal is helping immigrant communities integrate and become part of the fabric of American life.
The multicultural festival began with an open-air Mass at Foss Field Park that was attended by hundreds, including Mayor Michael Vargas, Riverside County Sheriff Stan Sniff and new Perris Police Chief Greg Fellows.
Fr. Jose Orozco issued a call for unity during the bilingual Mass, saying that in order to “appreciate the world, we have to have unity; we have to be united.”
“Be united, be together,” he said. “If we are united, it is difficult to break us apart.”
About 20 charros attended the service, which included a blessing for the animals. Charros is the term given to Mexican cowboys known for their colorful dress and masterful horsemanship.
Luz Gallegos TODEC Community Programs Director, called Perris a richly diverse City—and the festival reflected that richness. Cultures represented at this year’s multicultural event included Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.
Gallegos echoed the theme of unity.
“We have a diverse community and it’s important to share with our community our traditions and symbols,” Gallegos said. “It’s important for us to come together and work for the betterment of our City, our county, our state and our country.”
"Fantastic community engagement"
Perris Mayor Michael Vargas and City Councilman Malcolm Corona attended the festival. The City presented Certificates of Recognition on behalf of its work in the community.
“This is obviously an example of fantastic community engagement,” Vargas said. “I’m glad to be part of this event. It was great to see the charros and their beautiful horses and it’s nice to see our community come together to support this festival. We are a diverse community and it’s important that we show our support for, celebrate and embrace our various communities.”
Corona said the multicultural festival lets all Perris residents know they are appreciated for the contributions they make to the City.
“We celebrate all cultures so they know they are welcome in this City,” Corona said. “We are committed to showing that we care about our community—it sends the message that the City of Perris is a great place to live.”
Police Chief Fellows urged the community to work with law enforcement to make for a safer Perris, inviting them to “come visit us” at headquarters on Perris Boulevard. Fellows thanked the crowd and said it was an “honor and privilege to be part of this great event.”
“What a beautiful way to celebrate faith, families and community,” he said.
Fellows summed up his remarks by saying: “The people are the police and the police are the people.”
Building relationships—and jobs
Representatives of Cotija and the Mexican Consulate in San Bernardino attended the Perris festival and praised the community cohesion and commitment to diversity.
Salomon Rosas, chief consul of Mexico in San Bernardino, also praised the long-standing commitment of TODEC founders Luz and Antonio Ayala for their commitment to improving the lives of immigrants throughout Inland Southern California.
Rosas said he looks forward to working with Perris civic leaders and business owners to forge new bonds with their fellow entrepreneurs in Mexico, which could lead to additional jobs in both locations.
“Perris is a very important place to us,” Rosas said.