By Chris Simmons
¡Viva Mexico! ¡Viva Mexico! ¡Viva Mexico!
Listen closely this Friday night and you may hear a chant emanating from our neighbors to the south as Mexico prepares to celebrate their national Independence Day. For Americans, it’s important not to confuse this holiday with the celebrations on Cinco de Mayo. Throughout much of the U.S., May 5th is marked with celebrations including Mexican beer, Tequila, Mariachi bands and traditional Mexican food. This very commercialized day actually marks a small victory the Mexican army won over French forces at the Battle of Puebla in 1867, nearly fifty years after Mexico was officially declared an independent nation. While beer and liquor companies have turned Cinco de Mayo celebrations into something of a national drinking holiday, its origins stem from Chicano activists from the 1960’s who were determined to raise awareness of Mexican culture. Unfortunately, the day has been misconstrued by many Americans as Mexican Independence Day. The actual Dia de Independencia is on the 16th of September. The Cry of Delores, or El Grito as it is commonly referred to throughout Mexico, takes place the night before and is the official beginning of Independence Day celebrations.
El Grito dates back to a significant moment over one hundred years ago, when the then Spanish colony of “New Spain” was under the rule of the crown. Like many around the world at that time (think American and French revolutions), the people were fed up with Imperial rule and were looking to revolt. Father Miguel Hidalgo was a well-known and respected priest in Delores, Guanajuato. He was instrumental during the early months of 1810 with raising support for a rebellion against Spanish rule. Late on the night of September 15th when word got back to Hidalgo that the Spanish had learned of his suspected insurgency against the crown, he sprang into action. Running to his church at 11pm to toll the bell calling the locals to gather, he gave a rousing speech imploring his friends and allies to raise arms against the crown. Thus, with the “Cry of Delores”, a rebellion was born. On the very next morning, September 16th, 1810, the town people gathered with whatever makeshift weapons they could find and began their march against the crown. It would take nearly ten years and many brave leaders to bring about independence from Spain. The official declaration came about on September 28, 1821; however, Spain didn’t officially recognize Mexico’s independence until 1836. With all of these important dates surrounding the beginning of a country, the critical events of September 16th were settled on as the official date of Independence. The history of Mexico often traces its origins back to that eventful night with Miguel Hidalgo’s rousing speech. To this day, El Grito is celebrated and reenacted not only throughout Mexico, but by Mexicans all around the world. On Friday night, listen closely and you’ll hear the whispers of history proclaiming, “¡Viva Mexico!”