Even though I have been away from Mexico, the country I was born, for over 30 years, I still have close connections with all my family and friends who are very much part of my daily life.
So I thought it would be a good time to share what happens in Mexico on Independence Day and why it is such a momentous occasion.
The month of September is referred to as “el Mes de la Patria” (month of the homeland).
Mexico commemorates a proclamation by Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla on September 16th 1810, in the village of Dolores, near Guanajuato.
On September 15 at 11 p.m., the eve of Independence Day, the President of Mexico rings a bell from the balcony of the Mexican National Palace. He yells to the crowd below and they respond by saying Viva. This goes on until after a third time, everyone yells “Viva Mexico.” The people then wave flags and ring noisemakers. The Mexican anthem is sung and fireworks are set off to light up the sky.
On September 16th, a military parade takes place in Mexico City.
Brass bands fill the streets and governors re-enact “El Grito,” or the famous cry for freedom in major government palaces.
It is a big celebration for Mexicans with plenty of parties, festive decorations, parades, music, fireworks and plenty of traditional food.
History of Mexican Independence Day
Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, a Catholic priest, launched the Mexican War of Independence, with the issuing of his Grito de Dolores, or “Cry of Dolores.” The revolutionary tract called for the end of Spanish rule in Mexico, redistribution of land, and racial equality.
In 1825, the Republic of Mexico officially declared September 16th as its national Independence Day; This public holiday is the national day of Mexico.
Since the 1870s, re-enacting the proclamation has become a tradition. Every year, The Mexican President rings Hidalgo’s bell (now kept at the National Palace in Mexico City) and repeats Hidalgo’s words at 11:00pm on September 15th.
Hidalgo’s proclamation called for an end to Spanish rule in Mexico, encouraging rebellion and insurrection against the Spanish.
The Spanish Empire had been broken by Napoleon’s invasion of Spain, and imperial rule had been replaced by “juntas” in both Spain and the American colonies, while King Fernando VII was being held hostage by Napoleon.
The Proclamation of Dolores
Hidalgo ordered that the church bell be rung to gather his congregation, then called for insurrection and ended by calling out, Viva la Virgen de Guadalupe! Viva Fernando VII! Abajo el mal Gobierno! [Long live Our Lady of Guadalupe! Long live Fernando VII! Down with the bad government!].
There are various accounts of what Hidalgo was reputed to have actually said. While the proclamation has gained national status, in reality, it is unlikely that Hidalgo disowned the King as he is supposedly said to have done.
Following his speech, Father Hidalgo raised an army and attempted to overthrow the Junta government, but he was eventually defeated. As his struggle against the establishment continued, he began to demand the full independence of all the Spanish American colonies, and the exile or arrest of all Spaniards within Mexico.
It was only after a ten year long War of Independence that Mexico’s independence was finally acknowledged by the Spanish viceroy on September 27th 1821.
Independence Day Decorations
Decorations add to the mood of the party and most homes display:
- Mexican flags
- Colourful lights
- Balloons and streamers in green, white and red
- Flowers in red, white and green
- Paper lanterns
You will find street vendors selling items on almost every corner. These items include silly string, confetti, whistles and toys. Buildings, cars, streets and houses are all decorated for the occasion.
Traditional Mexican costumes are another part of the celebration. People can be seen in traditional native clothing and as well as in sombreros.
Traditional Mexican Food
Food is a very important part of Independence Day festivities.
You will find plenty of street vendors and restaurants featuring a selection of traditional Mexican fare.
Many decide to prepare food at home to serve at parties. Some traditional food for a Mexican Independence Day party includes:
- Pozole is made with hominy, which is processed corn with the germ removed, and meat, traditionally pork. It’s also often made with chicken, especially for those who don’t eat pork. The stew is seasoned with a combination of spices, and it’s typically topped with garnishes like lettuce, radishes, avocados and lime juice.
- Tamales are a traditional Mexican dish made with a corn dough mixture that is filled with various meats. They are wrapped and cooked in corn husks or banana leaves.
- Chiles en Nogada is a Mexican dish of poblano chiles stuffed with picadillo (a mixture usually containing shredded meat, aromatics, fruits and spices) topped with a walnut-based cream sauce, called Nogada, and pomegranate seeds, and typically served at room temperature.
- Pambazo bread dipped and fried in a red guajillo pepper sauce and filled with papas con chorizo (potatoes with chorizo) or with papas only. The bread used for pambazos is white and lacks a crispy crust.
- Tacos al pastorare made from thin strips of pork that have been marinated in spices and chiles and then stacked onto a long spit called a trompo (spinning top).
- Beveragesplenty of them, such as Mexican beer, Sangria, Tequila.
Games and Activities
An element of fun is essential in any Mexican celebration:
- Break the piñata: A piñata has plenty of sweets, fruit and small toys inside; then everyone takes a turn hitting it with a stick while blindfolded.
- Mexican hat dance: Mexican’s place a sombrero in the middle of the floor. Guests make a large circle around the room while holding hands. When the music begins, everyone walks sideways. Call out the name of one person and have them leave the circle and walk into the middle to dance around the hat. They repeat this until everyone has a turn to dance around the hat.
- Pass the sombrero: Guests stand in a circle. Music starts and guests pass around a sombrero. When the music stops, whoever is holding the hat is eliminated from the game.
- Eating Contest: This one is to test who can eat the hottest peppers. There is a wide range of chilli peppers, guests work their way up to the hottest without taking a sip of water.
- Limbo: For this game, a stick and two people hold the end of the stick. Guests have to go under the stick which gets lower and lower and if anyone touches the stick while going under, they are eliminated. Mexican music is a must during the game to add another element of fun and get people into the game.
The perfect complement to any Mexican Independence Day celebration is fireworks. The sky is lit up on the eve of Independence Day each year to celebrate Mexico’s independence.
This is when the real celebrating begins and people enjoy the meaning behind the holiday by indulging in a variety of treats, music, and drinks.
The celebration continues onto the next day when people enjoy a variety of activities, including a parade.
I hope you enjoy this short article about the history and celebrations of Mexico’s Independence Day.
What about you? Are you an Expat too? Where from? We’d love to hear your story and traditions from your country.
To Your Success,