Independence Day Festivities Celebrating Patriotism
If you are lucky enough to be in México on September 15 and 16, you’ll be able to join in with all the festivities of Independence Day. You may notice all the green, white, and red everywhere! Our national colors are proudly displayed in the Plaza and other downtown locations. This is a party Mexican people look forward to all year, and Mérida celebrates it to the maximum.
While the official holiday is on September 16, the festivities begin the night before. One excellent option is a Mexican buffet dinner party available at many of the hotels and restaurants in town. But the big festival takes place in the Plaza, surrounded by Calles 60, 61, 62, and 63.
People start filling up the plaza around 8:30 pm, and the action gets underway around 10:30 when Yucatán’s governor, dressed in typical Maya dress, appears on the Governor’s Palace balcony (on the north side of the plaza). The governor rings the large bronze bell above the balcony and yells the traditional “grito,” culminating with “Viva México!” The crowd responds “Viva!” each time. It is a noisy, happy scene that involves everyone who is there, and is followed by spectacular fireworks from the plaza and music until late at night. Then there is a military parade on the morning of the 16th.
So what is this party all about? Obviously, as its name implies, it is a celebration of México’s independence (from Spain). But the “grito” makes this independence celebration totally unique.
In 1810, Father Miguel Hidalgo was planning a secret revolt against the colonial Spanish government. When he and his colleagues were betrayed, he decided to encourage an open revolt against the Spaniards. Late on the night of September 15, 1810, he rang the church bells of his small Dolores church (near Guanajuato), calling his people to come together.
He spoke to them from the church and encouraged them to revolt. Although México’s independence was not recognized by Spain until 1821, after a decade of war, September 16, 1810 is considered the moment of the declaration of México’s independence. Hidalgo’s speech is considered the origin of the “grito” (yell).
When you witness the reenactment of the “grito“, you will surely feel some of the emotion around you. Everyone answers the “grito” at full volume, and many of the Mexican people who gather in plazas all over the country have tears in their eyes when they yell “Viva México!”
Video of the 2011 celebrations from our friends at intheyucatan.com:
While Independence Day is the most celebrated historical holiday in México, it is not the only one.
Other days commemorating México’s past are as follows:
February 5, Constitution Day: In 1917, on this day, the present constitution of México was approved.
March 21, birthday of Benito Juárez: In 1806, this Zapotec native was born, who would later serve five terms as México’s president. Juárez is widely regarded as México’s most beloved leader.
May 5, widely known as Cinco de Mayo: In 1862, Mexican armed forces achieved a victory over the French army in the Battle of Puebla. It is celebrated as a national day of heritage and pride.
November 20, Revolution Day: In 1910, Francisco Madero planned a revolt against the dictator Porfirio Díaz, who had been ruling México with an iron hand for 34 years. Díaz resigned in 1911, and Madero was elected president.
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