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September 16th in Mexico: Independence, Revolution or Both?

Every street corner vendor has options for you to bring in the Grito in style!

Many people from the US and Canada celebrate Mexican heritage on May 5th every year- “Cinco de Mayo.”  This is a day for celebrating all things Mexico as much as March 17th, Saint Patrick’s Day, is seen as a day to celebrate everything Irish.  Unfortunately some people think this day celebrates Mexico’s independence.   Some other people have no idea what the significance of the day is and simply use it as an excuse to enjoy large amounts of tequila and Mexican beer.  May 5th is a holiday that celebrates an 1862 battle between a small Mexican brigade and a large French brigade in the state of Puebla where the underdog Mexicans were victorious.  This is a holiday that appeals to national pride here but is not the most important national holiday of the year.  That is reserved for September 16th.

September 16th: Mexican Independence Day

Every year at midnight on September 16th the people of Mexico begin to celebrate.  In large cities and small towns, citizens gather to hear a local leader reenact a speech made by Miguel Hidalgo in the town of Dolores, Guanajuato.  Miguel Hidalgo’s speech was made early in the morning on September 16, 1810 and urged local residents to rise up against Spanish rule.  To gather people to hear his speech he rang a church bell.  Although Mexico’s independence from Spain was not actually realized until 1821, Hidalgo’s speech on that morning and the inspiration it had on the independence movement is celebrated annually as a national holiday.

This moment in Mexico’s history is reenacted each year by leaders who, at midnight, read his speech, ring a bell and ask residents to participate in the festivities by responding in unison to portions of the speech in municipal squares all over the country.  This called the “Grito” or “Grito de Dolores.”  One of our favorite contributors to the Mexico Today campaign, Suzanne Barbezat, has a nice article that outlines the speech itself and the various cultural traditions associated with Mexico’s Independence Day celebrations throughout the country.  You can read the full article here.

Light banners celebrating Independence Day and Revolution Day blink on and off down Calle 60 in Centro- Merida, Yucatan

Two Important Events, One Celebration… Sort of

If you have ever had the pleasure of being in Mexico in the month of September you likely saw decorations on buildings, cars and just about anything that can be decorated in green, white and red- the colors of the Mexican flag.  You might also notice two years highlighted on these decorations- 1810 and 1910.  This is because each autumn is also a time to celebrate and reflect on the Mexican Revolution.   The revolution did not begin on September 16th- there is a national holiday on November 20th to honor the official start of the Revolution.  Still, these events are so significant in the history of the country that the celebration of one generally brings thoughts of the other.

The Mexican Revolution began in 1910 and lasted well into the 1920s.  The purpose of the revolution began as a fight against the autocrat rule over Mexico by Porfirio Díaz and his government.  It evolved, however, into a multi-faceted civil war.  The culmination of the Mexican Revolution was the formation of the National Revolutionary Party in 1929.  This political party was later renamed the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and was the most influential party in Mexican politics for many years.  Every president of Mexico was a member of PRI since its formation until the general election in 2000 where Vincente Fox was elected as the first non-PRI Mexican President in over 50 years.

The Mexican Revolution is viewed by some as a transition between a federal government that wields power over its citizens to a federal government formed by citizens that functions on behalf of them.  Those who keep track of national politics here since the 2000 federal elections might note that the spirit of positive change rooted in the Mexican Revolution is still very much a part of the national dialogue.  As Mexico evolves so does the idea of more efficient and effective policies.  What began in 1910 is still connected to the hopes and dreams of all Mexican citizens today.  This is the reason the Mexican Revolution is celebrated every year.

Do you celebrate September 16th?  What are your traditions?  Do you have a different take on Independence Day or Revolution Day in Mexico?  Share your thoughts below or on our Facebook page or Twitter feed.

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  1. Mexican Independence Day in Yucatan » YCC Magazine says:

    [...] September 16th in Mexico: Independence, Revolution or Both? [...]

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