Monday, September 16, is Mexico’s Independence Day. On that day in 1810, Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla rang the church bell in his parish of Dolores (now called Dolores Hidalgo) and gave an inflammatory speech to the assembled throng.
The exact wording of this “Cry of Dolores” is not known, but it included the phrases “Long Live Mexico,” “Long live the Virgin of Guadalupe,” and “Death to bad government.” This was the beginning of Mexico’s long and bloody War of Independence, which lasted until 1821.
To honor this event, every year the President of Mexico will appear during the night of September 15 on the balcony of the National Palace in Mexico City and give a modern version of Father Hidalgo’s cry.
“Long Live the Heroes that gave us the Fatherland
(Here follows a list of the eight major heroes of Mexican Independence)
“Long Live National Independence
“Viva Mexico! Viva Mexico! Viva Mexico”
(To which the crowd responds with enthusiastic “Vivas”)
Father Hidalgo’s original church bell will be rung, and the great national fiesta will begin.
This scene is reproduced in every state and municipal capital all over Mexico. It will take place here in Tucson at AVA auditorium near the Casino del Sol, with the Mexican Consul delivering the Grito de Independencia. Celebrations start at 6 p.m. on the night of September 15, and the ceremony will take place at 8 p.m.
The Mexican Flag
Mexico’s flag is tightly tied to Mexico’s identity as an independent nation. It consists of three vertical bands of green, white, and red. Although the meanings assigned to these colors have changed over the years, currently the green stands for Hope, the white for Union, and the red for the Blood of Heroes. In the white center of the flag is Mexico’s seal, showing an eagle perched on a prickly pear cactus with a snake in its mouth. This refers to the Aztec myth of the founding of Tenochtitlan, now Mexico City.
It is no coincidence that many of the dishes served in Tucson’s Mexican restaurants involve red chili, green strips of lettuce, and white sour cream. So why not order an enchilada for lunch next Monday!
El Cinco de Mayo
And what about May 5, which some foreigners mistakenly think is Mexican Independence Day? It commemorates the Battle of Puebla in 1861, when a small Mexican force defeated a French invading army. The Mexicans won the battle, lost the war, but finally drove the French out. In Mexico it is observed mostly in the state of Puebla. In the United States, it is an occasion for Mexican Americans to celebrate their heritage and identity.