Thanks to misplaced advertising and a lack of general knowledge, many people around the world believe that the Mexican Independence Day is celebrated on May 5th, or more commonly known as Cinco de Mayo. However, the battle for independence actually started on the 16th of September of 1810 and has been celebrated on that date ever since. It ended on September 27th of 1821, but El Grito is given on the 16th. Let’s rewind a couple of centuries and start at the beginning.
As many know, Mexico was under Spanish ruling for 300 years after Hernán Cortés and his men invaded the lands, ridding themselves of the ancient colonies and building cities that resembled Spain. For years and years, Indians, creoles and mestizos were regarded as nobodies and were never appointed to any important colonial positions, unable to do anything about their status.
After Spain was invaded by Napoleon, Mexicans found strength and belief in making themselves an independent land once again. Armies of Mexican rebels started to arm and rise against the Spanish government that had cast a shadow over their land for centuries.
Mestizos and Indians throughout the country planned conspiracies to bring down the Spanish government; one by one, however, were discovered and the leaders harshly punished. Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, a progressive priest, along with Royal Army officer Ignacio Allende, had planned to start the insurrection against Spain on October 2nd, 1810.
However, as Spanish officials started rounding up those who were to stand against them, Hidalgo heard they were soon coming for him. Instead of going into hiding or surrendering, he took to the town of Dolores on the morning of September 16th and announced that he was going to take up arms against Spain. He issued a famous speech that is still repeated today by every President, and it has come to be known as El Grito (the cry). It took very little convincing and soon he had an army with which to march into Mexico City.
It was not long before he and his army found themselves at the doorstep of the city, but he mysteriously retreated and left the army in the hands of Allende. In 1811, they were both capture and killed. It looked as if hope had died with them, but the passion and anger within the armies that had risen was not over yet, and new leaders stood up in the fight for independence. José María Morelos fought until his death in 1815, and Vicente Guerrero took his place, continuing to fight until 1821.
On September 27th, 1821, Agustín de Iturbide, a royal officer, granted the liberation of Mexico, thus signing over the independence. Funnily, in Mexico they celebrate the beginning, when Hidalgo rose, rather than the actual signing of independence.
Every year, Mexicans around the world gather in celebration to hear and give the cry, el Grito, in a very traditional manner. Everyone dresses in green, white and red, representing the colors of the flag. Amongst the typical dishes to be made and eaten are chiles en nogada and pozole, all accompanied by tequila and beers. Families and friends gather around the television on September 15th at 11pm precisely to hear the President in turn give El Grito.
“¡Vivan los héroes que nos dieron patria! ¡Viva Hidalgo! ¡Viva Morelos! ¡Viva Josefa Ortiz de Domínguez! ¡Viva Allende! ¡Viva Aldama y Matamoros! ¡Viva la Independencia Nacional! ¡Viva México! ¡Viva México! ¡Viva México!” goes the cry, followed the ringing of the bell to commemorate the day. Everyone repeats “viva” after each phrase.
Music, dancing, traditional food, and plenty of partying go around throughout the night. September 16th is celebrated with parades throughout the streets with the military, never allowing anyone to forget the lives lost for a free and sovereign state.