“ Listen my children and you shall hear of the midnight ride of Paul Revere” Those are the opening words of Longfellow’s poem published almost 100 years after the American Revolution. And school children all over the nation learned the words to the poem and the story it told. As the story goes, some friends of Paul Revere were to light lanterns in the tower of Old North Church in Boston to tell him if the British were coming by land or sea(“… One if by land, two if by sea…”) He would then ride through the towns alerting the people. The story has been embroidered and embellished and Paul Revere has become a hero and super patriot, but he did not ride alone. In fact there were many back up riders that spread the word that the British were coming.
And so Mexico has an Independence Day legend reenacted in towns and villages and from the nation’s capital in Mexico City. Like the Independence Day celebrations in the US, it is a national holiday. The day is marked with pomp, parties and patriotism. And legends of epic proportions.
On September 15, 1810 Miguel Hidalgo y Castillo called the people from the steps of his church in Dolores Hidalgo in Guanajuato. He commanded his brother and others to march on the jail and demand the release of 80 or more political prisoners. Two of those that went to the sheriff with their demands were Ignacio Allende and Mariano Abasolo.
Those are two names that everyone reading this should recognize. Just as most larger towns in the US have streets named after Martin Luther King and John F. Kennedy, so are streets named for these heroes in towns all across the republic of Mexico. Here in La Paz, Calle Abasolo becomes our Malecon ( beach front promenade). And we do also have a Calle Ignacio Allende.
When we first arrived in La Paz and embarked on pool construction, I said to my Beloved; “ Beloved, there will be no workers at the house tomorrow.” “How do you know?”; he asked. And my response was that the next day would be the 16th of September, and there was a BIG street named for that day.
Clue about holidays here: if there is a street named with a date, there will be a holiday.
So at around sunrise on September 16, 1810, Hidalgo ordered the church bells rung, and exhorted his parishioners to revolt against the “bad government” also known as the Spanish.
This exhortation to revolution became known as El Grito de Dolores or the Cry of Dolores.
The first battle fought in the war for independence occurred on September 20th in Guanajuato. Mexico would not win her independence from Spain for ten more years. The Declaration of Independence of the Mexican Empire was made on September 27, 1821.
No one has the exact words Hidalgo used to exhort his people to insurrection and the famous speech of Cry of Dolores is not recorded and many other people are attributed with parts of the oration.
And everyone has an opinion of what was said, and who said it. But today Miguel Hidalgo, a Catholic priest is anointed with the responsibility of calling the people to rise up against their oppressors.
In October 1825, the Cry of Dolores had an official name change to the El Grito de La Independencia, or the Cry of Independencia. And on September 15th, the president of Mexico rings the bells at the National Palace in Mexico City around eleven p.m. He then reads the following poem and the crowd responds with the last lines “ Via Mexico, Viva Mexico, Viva Mexico! The president waves the national flag during the shouting, then at the end rings the bell again.
Long live the heroes that gave us the Fatherland!
Long live Hidalgo!
Long live Morelos!
Long live Josefa Ortiz de Dominguez!
Long live Allende!
Long live Aldama and Matamoros!
Long live National Independence!
Long Live Mexico! Long Live Mexico! Long Live Mexico!
The crowds in the Zocalo in Mexico City are enormous and tourists as well as Mexicans come from near and far to be part of El Grito.
It is customary for Mexican presidents to visit the church in Dolores Hidalgo on the last Independence Day of their term. President Calderon broke with tradition and visited the church of Dolores Hidalgo on September 15th, 2010 as part of the bi-centennial celebrations.
Have you noticed the foil bunting and the red, green and white décor festooning the governor’s palace on Isabel La Catolica near Allende? It is dressed and ready for El Grito coming up in a few short weeks. Red, green and white streamers are stretched across the Malecon, and street vendors have been out for weeks selling flags, sombreros and anything remotely connected to Independence Day.
There will be a huge crowd, the shout and fireworks! If you don’t mind crowds, and also hoofing it from a parking spot somewhere blocks away, it is an energetic and enthusiastic crowd, and you will be stirred to take part in the grito. Viva Mexico!
The restaurants will be starting to serve Chiles en Nogada a traditional dish served at this time of year. Look for my upcoming post about this.
My Beloved and I will watch the fireworks from our terrace on the hill across the bay from La Paz.