‘How does Mexico celebrate their Independence Day’ is a question I got the answers to as for the first time, I prepare to celebrate Mexico’s 201st Birthday in-country.
In Mexico, September is known as “Mes de la Patria” (month of the homeland) and this year they celebrate their 201st anniversary of their independence from the Spanish. Now I know you’re probably asking yourself, “wasn’t Cinco de Mayo their Independence Day? What did I drink all that tequila for?” Well actually, no, 5 de Mayo is not their Independence Day! In fact ironically, Mexico doesn’t even celebrate it much as the USA does… but come September, you will see all of Mexico join together as the country is painted red, white, and green (colors of the Mexican flag).
This is going to be my first year celebrating Mexico’s Independence Day and I’m pretty excited. Now I have a lot of pride when it comes to the Fourth of July, it was really hard for me to spend it away from home this year as I daydreamed of the barbecues and bonfires, but I am really looking forward to immersing myself in Mexico’s celebrations. However, one thing I am completely clueless of is HOW they celebrate! Will there be watermelon and sloppy joes? Can I write my name in the air with a sparkler? So in order to make the most of this experience, I asked my Mexican friends to advise me on what I can expect this upcoming Independence Day… beyond the tequila.
My friend explained it all and like in the USA, it is a holiday full of parties. The celebration actually starts on the 15th (the Eve of Independence Day) where kids usually attend a half day of school and throw a mini-fiesta complete with food stands, games and Mexican music. After work and school let out, traditionally, celebrations begin in anticipation for the main event “El Grito” in the Zócalo. Either celebrating with family or with friends, there is always a large dinner prepared first. The traditional foods most commonly served are pozole, chiles rellenos, tamales, chiles en nogada and so forth. It is also a custom to drink agua de jamaica and agua de horchata. After dinner, the tequila drinking and piñata hitting that we all associate with Mexican fiestas begin. Like some cities in the USA, some in Mexico also impose “ley seca” or dry law; no sale of alcohol.
Following dinner, it’s time for “El Grito” where crowds of people meet in the gathering places of the cities and towns. The Zócalo’s are dazzled in red, white and green; people, flags, flowers and twinkling lights while vendors are lined selling whistles, horns, noise makers, face painting, sombreros, and anything in the colors of Mexico’s flag. If not participating live, usually people just watch the broadcasting of their respective state, or the largest gathering in Mexico’s capital, Distrito Federal (D.F.), on TV.
At the last strike of 11 o’ clock, the anxious crowd becomes silent as the President of Mexico (or the respective city’s official) steps out and rings a bell, symbolic of when Miguel Hidalgo rang the bell in 1810 to launch the fight against the Spanish. The bell rung by the President in D.F. is actually the original bell rung centuries ago in Guanajuato. It is proceeded with the “Grito de Dolores” where the leader shouts the names of heroic characters that were part of the war and the crowd echoes back “¡viva!”. It ends with “¡viva Mexico!” and “¡viva la independencia!”, as a series of more echoes of “¡viva!” are shouted in unison all across the country at the exact same time while showers of red, white and green confetti and steamers explode in the air. The national hymn is usually sung after with a display of fireworks and everyone keeps partying or heads home.
The 16th of September is probably the most comparable to the 4thof July. A day off work filled with parades, school bands, cheerleaders and military. You will also occasionally find rodeos and a mariachi band.
What I find most absolutely interesting about Mexico’s celebrations opposed to any custom in the USA, is that it sounds so united. Everyone truly comes together to loudly and proudly fuse together at one single moment to commemorate their country and pride for it. As far as I know, the USA doesn’t have that one special unifying and acknowledging moment- but isn’t that what the day is all about?
Although there will be no sparklers for me this year, the streets of Puerto Vallarta are boasting red, white and green and I am looking forward to celebrating in their series of events. I will report back after and let you know how my first Mexican Independence Day was. In the mean time, check out some more amazing articles about Mexico’s Independence Day.
Disclosure: I am being compensated for my work in creating and managing content as a Contributor for the México Today Program. All stories, opinions and passion for all things México shared here are completely my own.