The following is the opinion and analysis of the writer:
On Sept. 16, Mexicans celebrate our independence or, broadly speaking, the cultural identity we have created as a nation. Like everything that is Mexican, the occasion is full of colors and joy and becomes another ideal excuse for having great food with family and friends.
From a historical point of view, this year is special because it has been 200 years since the War of Independence against the Spanish rule ended. We had already celebrated the bicentennial of the beginning of this same war in 2010, but let’s not be shy finding new reasons to celebrate.
It was a long and bloody struggle of 11 years with no ending in sight, but the understanding that a new nation was complete in the collective conscience lead to the signing of a treaty in Córdoba, Veracruz, between the commander of the insurgent army and the Spanish last viceroy. And in September 1821 what was before called New Spain, was then called the Mexican Empire; now we just call it Mexico.
If you have been in a Mexican town the night of any Sept. 15th, you might have run into a unique national ritual. On every main square you will find the mayor of the city, or the governor in the state capitals, or the president of the republic in the Mexico City Zócalo standing on a balcony and shouting names of men and women that might sound unfamiliar — if you are not into Mexican history — but deserve each and every one a loud ¡Viva! from the crowd.
The civic festivity of El Grito, let’s call it the Mexican Outcry, is then a ceremonious catalogue of the individuals noted by history as the ones who created our homeland, in the several stages that led to independence. And the multitude will respond with the corresponding ¡vivas! All the nations need their ceremonies and we Mexicans needed a loud one.
The climax, nonetheless, will arrive after the enumeration of our heroes and heroines, when the highest official that is present cries out loud ¡Viva México! And the people will repeat adding more decibels ¡Viva! And then again for three times.
Decorated with the green, white and red flags that become omnipresent around the country, the ritual is incomplete if not wrapped by music that, even if you are foreigner, you will find traditional. Also, it is incomplete without the smell of street food stands close by enticing you, in the complex harmony of the gastronomic adventure that is every place in Mexico.
It is not easy to express with words, limited as mine are, the feelings of belonging and pride that such a simple ceremony can evoke. The fireworks on the Fourth of July undoubtedly do the equivalent in the United States. After all, every community creates symbols that become of personal significance, help us to identify as members of the same group and to remember our shared purposes.
It has been an absolute pleasure for me to perform this civil ceremony in Tucson, on behalf of the Mexican government, before Mexican nationals, Mexican-Americans and our American friends. It was a delight to do it in such a welcoming city, with the strongest historical, cultural and familiar bonds with my country.
I appreciate Tucson for joining us in this tradition that has been continued by many Mexicans in the U.S. as a way to celebrate their own identity and culture, in this country they now call home.
Rafael Barceló Durazo is the Consul of Mexico in Tucson.