September 16, Independence Day, is a national holiday in Mexico. Banks, schools, and government offices are closed. Many businesses shut their doors so that families may spend time together watching fireworks, listening to bands, attending parades, and dancing. Food is an important part of the celebration. Chiles en Nogada is a popular dish because all of the colors of the Mexican flag are represented (Find the traditional recipe here.)
September is Patriot’s Month in Mexico. Banderas de Mexico are flying. Venders are set up on nearly every street corner selling trumpets, drums, dolls, hair bows, sombreros, and necklaces. Red, white, and green flowers, streamers, and balloons decorate storefronts and homes. El Día de la Independencia is approaching, and the masses are gearing up for a grand fiesta.
Miguel Hidalgo, a Catholic priest, was responsible for rallying the Mexican people to fight for their independence from Spain. After the ringing of the church bells in the wee hours of the morning on September 16, 1810, he called on the citizens to take up arms against the Spanish and rebel against the injustices of their rule. His fiery speech is known as the Cry of Dolores; Dolores being the name of the small pueblo in the state of Guanajuato where Hidalgo lived. And so began a ten-year struggle to achieve sovereignty.
Today, the Cry of Dolores, or El Grito, is reenacted throughout Mexico on the eve of the Independence Day celebrations. From the balcony of the National Palace, the President of Mexico performs El Grito in front of a massive crowd of spectators. Hidalgo’s exact words have been lost, but the energy of the Mexican people remains the same. Today, El Grito honors the Fathers of the Revolution, the Fathers of Mexico. The same bell that rang in Dolores in 1810, rings every September 15 in Mexico City. Mayors and governors lead El Grito in their own states and communities. The passion and emotion Mexicans feel for their beloved country echoes across the land. It is a powerful coming together that symbolizes strength, spirit, and love for the homeland.
On a recent trip to Centro Comercial in Guaymas, I purchased a new flag for my home. Trying to maneuver a 5’x3’ flag on a 6 1/2’ wooden stick through a sidewalk jammed with shoppers was a challenge. I may have accidentally poked one or two as I turned in all directions to marvel at the delightful chaos of the shopping district. All was forgiven, however, as passers-by shouted “¡Viva México!”, “Listos por El Grito”, and shared smiles of pride for this beautiful, independent country in which we live.