A Tale of Two Holidays

September 15th marks the beginning of the Hispanic Heritage Month; it is when Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua celebrate their independence from the Spanish rule. My beloved Mexico starts celebrating that night too, though the official Mexican Independence Day is the 16th. For Chile, it is the 18th.

A lot of people mistakenly think that Cinco de Mayo is Mexico’s Independence Day. On May 5th 1862, Mexican troops defeated the occupying French forces during the attack of the Forts of Loreto and Guadalupe, in Puebla. We do get the day off, but it’s hardly a celebration. At least not like it is here in the US. Here, it is more like St. Patrick’s Day, an excuse for everyone to eat chips and salsa and drink margaritas. That’s alright; it gives us a chance to come together, show solidarity and celebrate where we are from. But we save most of our Mexican pride in the form of partying spirit for soccer games and September 15th.

On the dawn of September 16 in 1810, Father Hidalgo, a Creole priest from a parish in the small town of Dolores in Guanajuato, cried out to demand Mexico’s independence from the Spanish, gathering and organizing the people by ringing the church bell and talking them into freeing themselves from the social injustice and oppression. The plan had been to start the revolution in October, as Hidalgo and other insurgents like Ignacio Allende, Juan Aldama and Mariano Abasolo had conspired, but they were busted and forced to move up the date. Led by Hidalgo, armed with axes, machetes and knives and adopting the picture of the Virgin of Guadalupe as their banner, Indians, Creoles and Mestizos fought the Spanish artillery. It took eleven years of war until the independence was consummated.

Every year, on the night of September 15, the “Cry of Dolores” is reenacted in every plaza in Mexico. In Mexico City it takes place at the Zócalo, where the President rings the historic bell held in the presidential balcony at Palacio Nacional proclaiming long live the heroes that gave us nation and liberty, our independence and Mexico! This ceremony is followed by music and fireworks and on the morning of the 16th there is a military parade. All the celebrations were especially impressive this year, because of the 200 anniversary of the Independence and centennial of the Revolution.

You might have heard a lot about the things that need to be fixed and improved in Mexico. We are well aware of those. But to be fair, there are also a lot of great things about our country that make us proud and grateful. We may not be wealthy, but we are rich. We are rich in natural beauty and resources. We are rich in history and we honor our ancestors because we owe it to them. We are culturally diverse and rich in traditions. We are rich in flavors. We are rich in sounds. And most importantly we are rich in our wonderful people. ¡Viva México!