The celebration of independence is not quite like any other celebration. That’s because the feeling of independence is felt so strongly by those who live free. And Mexican Independence Day – Dia de la Independencia – is the day Mexicans join with their fellow countrymen to celebrate their independence from Spain.
It’s one of the biggest celebrations of the year. You can find a festive atmosphere everywhere, all across Mexico, in every city. Mexicans know how to throw a party. Mexican Independence Day – officially recognized every year on September 16 – is filled with fireworks, dancing, and parades. And don’t forget about the food and beer! How can you celebrate any Mexican holiday without some authentic Mexican cuisine and cerveza?
THIS SONG + CERVEZA = HAPPINESS
The Cry That Started a Revolution
In the early 1800s, Mexico had already been a Spanish colony for hundreds of years. The Spaniards arrived in 1519, with the intention of conquering the native tribal peoples. After achieving victory, more Spaniards arrived. They began to settle the region, intermarry with the local people, and build a New Spain.
Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla was born in 1753 in Guanajuato (north of Mexico City), at a time when New Spain had some growing unrest. The social caste system and the negatives of being ruled by a foreign power made for a tense political situation. Although Hidalgo became a Catholic priest, he had such leadership skills and a passion for the freedom of his people that he could not stay quiet.
In 1810, he and some fellow patriots planned a revolt, but ultimately the plan failed. After forcing the sheriff to release some independence sympathizers from jail, Hidalgo called for an early morning Mass on September 16, 1810. About 300 people attended the Mass, including some Spaniards. Hidalgo feared he could be arrested any moment for his involvement in the revolt. In a moment of desperation, he rallied his countrymen to rebel against the Spanish government.
This call to war is known as the Cry of Dolores (Grito de Dolores). The speech was not preserved with its original words. Historians vary on exactly what Hidalgo said. But most versions agree it had to be something like this:
“Will you free yourselves? Will you recover the lands stolen 300 years ago from your forefathers by the hated Spaniards? We must act at once.”
It was Hidalgo’s leadership and this passionate plea that eventually led to Mexico’s independence from Spain. Hidalgo was captured and executed by the Spaniards less than a year after his famous speech. The fight for independence would last almost 11 years. Spain signed the treaty in 1821, and Mexico was finally recognized as a free state.
México, lindo y querido | Beautiful and Beloved Mexico
The Cry Heard All Across Mexico Today
Hidalgo is remembered with reverence. He is included in a 150-foot tall Monument to Independence in Mexico City. Hidalgo’s image appears on the 1000 Pesos bill in Mexican currency. People pay homage to the Father of Mexican Independence on this day by remembering his Grito de Dolores. In town squares all across Mexico, you can hear reenactments of his famous speech on Independence Day.
“Each year on the night of September 15—the eve of Mexican Independence Day—the president of the republic shouts a version of “el Grito” from the balcony of the National Palace in Mexico City: “Viva México! Viva la Independencia! Vivan los héroes!” The ceremony is broadcast throughout the country and is repeated on a smaller scale in many towns and villages”. Encyclopedia Britannica
The President of Mexico gets in on the action, too. His role begins on the eve of Independence Day, at 11:00 at night. He rings the bell of the National Palace in Mexico City. Then he shares a Grito Mexicano – based on the original Grito de Dolores. The speech goes like this:
Long live the heroes who gave us our homeland!
Long live Hidalgo!
Long live Morelos!
Long live Josefa Ortíz de Dominguez!
Long live Allende!
Long live Aldama and Matamoros!
Long live the independence of our nation!
Long Live Mexico! Long Live Mexico! Long Live Mexico!
The next day, September 16, is set aside for the whole country to celebrate. Visitors to Mexico can enjoy joining in the festivities and the fun spirit of the holiday. There’s plenty to see: parades, marching band competitions, dancing, patriotic programs, concerts, and fireworks. Don’t expect people to go to work. And you might find some streets are shut down to make room for the celebrations. Such is the excitement you’ll find at the fiesta de independencia!
Long Live Mexico!