Americans Celebrate Mexican Independence Day (Especially In Vegas)

EL POTRILLO EN EL NORTE: Singer Alejandro Fernández, son of the late legend and icon Vicente Fernández, is one of many artists from south of the border celebrating Mexican Independence Day with a show in the U.S. (Photo by Jaime Nogales/Getty Images)

The month of September is usually a time that reminds Americans that fall is just around the corner, with local coffee shops adding pumpkin spice items to their menus and home décor stores displaying the latest Halloween decorations, but there’s something else brewing during this period. For many of us in this country, it’s a time to honor our roots with Mexican Independence Day on Sept. 16, a day that may not be a U.S. holiday but is still widely celebrated in the States with major cities hosting events and concerts for the ever-growing Latin population.

National Hispanic Heritage Month begins on Sept. 15 and El Grito (“The Cry”) — a patriotic ceremony commemorating Father Miguel Hidalgo’s battle cry for independence in Dolores, Mexico, in 1810 — is the unofficial kickoff for the month-long appreciation here in the States, with Mexican artists trekking to our side of the border to celebrate. And why wouldn’t they? Of the 331 million people in the U.S., the Census Bureau reported that nearly 64 million identified as Hispanic or Latino and more than 37 million are of Mexican origin.

While Chicago and California cities have plenty of events to commemorate Mexico’s independence from Spain, there’s no municipality that can top what Las Vegas has to offer the week surrounding the Mexican holiday.

“Thirty percent of Nevada’s population is Hispanic, and most of these folks live in Vegas,” Bruno Del Granado, head of CAA’s global Latin music touring group, tells Pollstar. “Plus it’s a popular destination for tourists from Mexico and on top of that, it’s a city that has music shows every night — a perfect excuse for Latin artists to play Vegas during Mexican Independence Day and days around it.”

Singers such as Alejandro Fernández, the son of iconic mariachi legend Vicente Fernández, and Luis Miguel have routed their tours around the date and make it a priority to be in Sin City for El Grito, a holiday that rings louder every year in the U.S.

“We try to refrain from booking shows that weekend in L.A. because we know that there’s a lot of travelers going to Vegas, and we’ll book our Southern California dates surrounding the time period,” says Emily Simonitsch, Live Nation senior vice president of regional Latin programming and California touring. “But I think people are recognizing that we have the spending power and that our genre and the economics are there. … Anyone that’s not recognizing that is foolish because we do have spending power, and it’s been impacted by the growth of the popularity of Latin music.”

That spending power is what propelled the Latin music industry to a record $1.1 billion in revenue last year. According to a report from Latino Donor Collaborative, the total economic output of Latinos in the U.S. was a whopping $2.8 trillion in 2020, a figure that would make the U.S. Latino gross domestic product the fifth largest in the world.

Las Vegas has long been aware of that financial impact with promoters scheduling boxing matches involving Mexican fighters during El Grito, a tradition that began three decades ago with fighters such as Julio César Chávez and Oscar De La Hoya, in a move that not only encouraged tourists to visit but also artists. Other acts set to perform that week in Vegas include Pollstar cover artists RBD, Marco Antonio Solís and Jay Wheeler (at the two-day Rumbazo festival), Maná, Gloria Trevi, Gerardo Ortiz and cumbia group Los Ángeles Azules — a list that not only highlights the diversity of Latin music but its growth as more artists are willing to stop by Vegas on Mexico’s most celebrated night.

“It’s a big weekend for us and the city,” says Sid Greenfeig, senior vice president of Live Nation Las Vegas. “When I moved here eight years ago, it was something that I had to learn quickly.  I mean, this is the 17th year in a row Alejandro is playing during the holiday in Vegas.

“It just becomes a massive celebration. There’s a giant congregation of the population that comes here for the weekend and they own it. It’s their weekend in this town, and that’s what makes it very special.”

For Simonitsch, a veteran in the industry, booking these shows is special because it gives hard-working artists a platform to express their art while celebrating where they came from, providing fans the opportunity to hear them.

“I love to be in the theater for all the shows that I promote at the beginning of the set … because you can see the joy of the fans seeing the artists,” she says. “I never want to forget about that or take it for granted. … I’ve learned from my mentors to say we have the money, and we should be able to open doors of mainstream buildings with Latin talent.

“I always say, ‘There is no Hispanic neighborhood anymore. We are everywhere, and we live in every community of California,’ and our retailers should appreciate that. It’s a proud moment for all of us. [These artists] have paid their dues working in the States for years.”

Vegas may see even more diversity in concerts in the coming years as audiences attending Latin music shows continue to evolve, which can influence who promoters book and what venues are utilized in the future.

“I’ve already got a lot of 2024 locked up,” he says. “It’s a coveted time, and that just shows you how fast the growth is of Mexican and Mexican Americans as well as the entire Latin music scene, which is crossing over into the pop culture world. … [Las Vegas] has really embraced the holiday, a lot of times venues are blocking out that time period so that we can put together a roster of artists for that weekend.”

With grosses nearing $2.7 million across two concerts during last year’s Mexican Independence Day celebration at MGM Grand Garden Arena, it’s no wonder Fernández — and many other Mexican artists — has made Vegas his casa away from casa.