If you look on your calendar tomorrow, it just might say Mexican Independence Day. That’s right. September 16th. Not the 5th of May as many believe. Unbeknownst to many Americans, Cinco de Mayo has absolutely nothing to do with Mexican Independence. That day celebrates the day the Mexican Army crushed the larger, better equipped French Army in the Battle of Puebla in 1862.
Except in Mexico, other than maybe eating an extra cemita or two, one of the great street foods of Puebla, few people give the day much notice. September 16th, or Independence Day however is another matter.
The official events begin September 15 as cities and towns all over Mexico begin their festivities at midnight. With reenactments of the Grito de Dolores, a shout for Mexican Independence issued in 1810 by a Catholic Priest named Miguel Hidalgo, the day is a time of patriotic bonding and celebration of the type long since left behind in most of the United States.
Legend has it that Hidalgo and fellow independence minded leaders Juan Aldama and Ignacio Allende at his side when, late at night on the 15th, he addressed the people of Mexico from the small town of Dolores, urging them to revolt and fight for independence.
At least, that’s how the story goes. Like many founding narratives in countries around the globe, little can be known for certain but something special happened that night years ago. To put this into context, think July 4th, the Liberty Bell and Paul Revere’s ride all rolled into one annual event that the entire nation celebrates.
I have been fortunate enough to have visited the site of Hidalgo’s historic address in the small city named for him in the state of Guanajuato. I’ve also been in Oaxaca City for Independence Day and have seen the governor of the state reenact the grito from the balcony of the state building. I was astonished at the crowd flooding into the zocalo for the midnight celebration. Thousands of people from all walks of life were there, and in city centers all across Mexico at that exact moment to reenact this historical event.
Cinco de Mayo? Thank you Budweiser for your efforts.
Independence Day… 16 de Septiembre? Thank you Father Hidalgo for your heroic efforts on behalf of a young emerging nation many years ago.
Want to read more?