Independence Day on September 16 is the most widely celebrated of Mexico’s four political national holidays. It’s no wonder this is so as it marks the events that led to the creation of the Mexican Republic following three centuries of Spanish colonial rule.
The other three political holidays: marking the promulgation of the 1917 Constitution (in February); the birth of 19th century president Benito Juárez (in March); and the start of the 1910-1917 Revolution (in November) pale in comparison with the September independence holiday. Those three have all been moved, since 2006, to the nearest Monday, as part of an initiative to create long holiday weekends, similar to Bank Holidays in the UK, which stimulate tourism.
Not so ‘El Grito‘ which is always held on the night of September 15, and followed by a national day-off on the 16th. Legislators considered that the Independence holiday, like the May 1 international Labor Day, was too significant to be tampered with for the sake of convenience or economics.
September 16 competes with other national holidays in a number of ways.
Like Christmas, it’s a time for lighting up public places with decorations in the green, white and red national colors, including images in neon of the country’s Independence heroes: Miguel Hidalgo, the priest who rang the bell on September 16, 1810, in the town of Dolores, and set the independence movement from Spain in motion; and José María Morelos, the priest who continued the revolutionary work of Hidalgo, making a name for himself as one of the most able of Mexico’s military commanders.
Like New Year, it involves people getting together for an evening meal or party, and waiting to 11 p.m. (instead of midnight) when political leaders from the president down to local mayors re-enact Hidalgo’s call to arms from the balcony of the National Palace, or from countless state and municipal buildings across the nation. These hundreds of simultaneous “gritos” of “Viva México!” are followed by bombardments of fireworks.
These gatherings also have their typical foods, and an Independence Day fiesta is incomplete without pozole, a tasty broth made with white corn, pork or chicken, and served with radishes, oregano and other spices.
Flags abound, and entertainments include the military parade in Mexico City, with planes flying in formation over the capital. (Mexico City’s airport is closed to commercial flights for several hours on the 16th.)
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