An Alternative to Hate is to Celebrate – Celebrate Fiestas Primavera Spring Fest at Benicia City Park on Saturday, March 23

Sheri Leigh
Sheri Leigh, Benicia resident and educator.

By Sheri Leigh, March 8, 2024

Along with the longer lasting daylight and the blossoming of our beautiful downtown trees comes the anticipation of Spring Break. And during the last few decades, at this time of year some of our students look forward to the tradition of the La Migra chase game – the game that gives the teens something exciting and edgy to do in our small, quiet town.

Each year the game is staged, those who choose to play look forward to the challenge of either getting strategically and successfully across town on foot while being pursued by their older peers who are behind the wheel of the motor vehicle, or, on the other side, finding and apprehending the cunning escapees. If caught, the “runners” are captured and “deported” to some remote area on the outskirts of town.

Sounds like fun, right?

Definitely not for everyone. There are a lot of serious problems associated with this so-called game.

Some Benicia High School students have taken action against the game, posting warnings to discourage peers from participating. | This image is a still from a 2023 NBC Bay Area report.

The premise of the game is racist – flat out. It’s simulating the brutal and terrifying experiences of many immigrants and other marginalized people who have been targeted, beaten, and/or run out of town (or the country) because of the color of their skin, their status as a citizen, their religion, their sexual orientation, or their vulnerability. Historically, Mexican and Central Americans, Blacks, Jews, the Queer community, Native Americans and many other groups of people, have been the victims of hate crime in the United States. And in that same spirit of xenophobia and hate, a few bullies who, under the pretext of playing the game, have chased down and terrorized anyone they felt like harassing, whether or not their target was participating or even knew the game was underway.  Some victims of these students have been severely traumatized and carry that with them for years afterwards.  

And then there’s the public safety aspect. With young people running away from their pursuers into private yards and through traffic, with teens being abducted and abandoned alone in remote areas, and with inexperienced drivers focused on the pursuit, rather than the road, it’s only a matter of time before someone gets seriously hurt or even killed. 

The La Migra Game is a blight on Benicia. Several of the students who are playing are well aware of the racist implications and take the opportunity to behave badly. And the really sad part is there are many adult Benicians who simply look the other way or consider the game a tradition and a teen rite of passage. Our collective ambivalence towards the game adds to Benicia’s reputation of being a Sundown Town, unwelcoming or even hostile towards anyone who is not white and/or socioeconomically well situated.

Fiestas Primavera Benicia






Solano Aids Coalition, under the organization of an experienced cultural event coordinator and the director, Mario Saucedo, is offering a spring time alternative to this game.   For just one example of Mario and SAC’s skill and passion for bringing cultural events to life, see this article about the Dia de los Muertos event in Vallejo last year.

This year, for Benicia, SAC is bringing a vibrant and energetic opportunity to learn about and celebrate the Mexican/Latino and Indigenous cultures through an inclusive and interactive event called Fiestas Primavera Benicia or Spring Celebration.

The event will take place on Saturday, March 23, 2024 in the Benicia City Park by the Gazebo at the top of First Street from 10:30am to 6pm. This event is supported by local and State officials, the Benicia School District, the Benicia Police Department, the Public Library, Benicia Black Lives Matters, the Kyle Hyland Teen Center, local artists and businesses, and a host of others who want to establish an equitable and welcoming community.

As a prelude to the event, you will see some of the supporting First Street businesses have their storefront windows decorated with colorful floral paintings done by local artists and high school students (if you are a First Street business who is interested in signing up to have your window painted, contact Sheri using the details provided on the flyer image below).

On the day of the event there will be an extravaganza of dance, music, and art by professional performing and fine artists and local students. Arts and crafts vendors, food trucks and a lowrider parade around the park will draw in people of all ages. Students will have the opportunity to display their artwork in the art pavilion and speak about their experiences and the need for diversity and inclusion during an open mike session. Doña Benicia will mingle with the crowds to share her wisdom, and clowns or payasos will entertain with their antics and charm.

In the children’s area, Catrina face painting, pinata making, street chalk art, and bounce houses will help the children enjoy and appreciate Mexican/Latino culture. And everyone will have the opportunity to look up and remember their own ancestral journey of immigration to this country, no matter from where or how long ago.

We all need to remember that less than two hundred years ago Benicia was part of Mexico, and before that, it was the land of the Suisunes and Miwoks and other Patwin tribes. We should be honoring the history of our land and its many diverse inhabitants and celebrating our cultural diversity, including the tremendous contributions of the Indigenous peoples and immigrants to the United States and Benicia over the ages.

Please join us in solidarity and celebration at this landmark event, Fiestas Primavera Benicia on March 23 anytime from 10:30 until 6pm.  Stand up against racial bias and hate – celebrate.  

For more information and details, including how to support this event through monetary donations and volunteering, please visit the Solano Aids Coalition Website at