Posted on December 7, 2004

Non-Latinos Mine Southland’s Mexican Market

Sam Quinones, Los Angeles Times, Dec. 5

When hundreds of immigrants celebrated Mexico’s Independence Day at an Anaheim parking lot, they transformed the tarmac into a boisterous village carnival.

Vendors sold T-shirts with images of revolutionary Emiliano Zapata and his latter-day namesake, the Zapatista Revolutionary Army. Food stands hustled tacos and churros, sugary fried dough. The crowd cheered as an announcer called out the names of Mexican states.

As the sun set, the classic norteño band Los Cadetes de Linares took the stage and played “Palomita Blanca.”

On that Orange County street corner, everything was cien por ciento Mexicano — 100% Mexican. Everything, that is, but the man staging the event.

Ted Holcomb doesn’t speak Spanish. He has never been to Mexico. Yet he has learned to put on carnivals across Southern California that mirror the annual festivals that Mexican villages hold to honor their patron saints.

“I have a closet full of [Spanish] books and tapes,” Holcomb said. “I just don’t have time to study them.”

Over the last decade, Holcomb has carved a sizable business niche by offering an echo of home to tens of thousands of Mexican immigrants.