It’s almost painful how much residents of the U.S. don’t know about our neighbor to the south, Mexico.
No, Cinco de Mayo is not Mexican Independence Day. That would be September 16.
Mexico’s Independence Day is celebrated on September 16.
But just to confuse things more, Mexico did not get independence on September 16.
September 16 is the usual date given for the most famous speech in Mexico’s history — a speech for which no transcript survives, and so, a speech which no one can really describe accurately. A Catholic priest who was involved in schemes to create an armed revolution to throw out Spanish rule (then under Napoleon), thought his plot had been discovered, and moved up the call for the peasants to revolt. At midnight, September 15, 1810, Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla declaimed the need for Mexicans to rise in revolution, from his church in the town of Dolores, near Guanajuato. The cry for freedom is known in Spanish as the Grito de Dolores.
Hidalgo himself was hunted down, captured and executed. Mexico didn’t achieve independence from Spain for another 11 years, on September 28, 1821.
To commemorate Father Hidalgo’s cry for independence, usually the President of Mexico repeats the speech at midnight, in Mexico City, or in Dolores. If the President does not journey to Dolores, some other official gives the speech there. Despite no one’s knowing what was said, there is a script from tradition used by the President:
- 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 Galena and the Bravos!
- Long live Aldama and Matamoros!
- Long live National Independence!
- Long Live Mexico! Long Live Mexico! Long Live Mexico!
Political history of Mexico is not easy to explain at all.
Hidalgo’s life was short after the speech, but the Spanish still feared the power of his ideas and names. In Hidalgo’s honor, a town in the Texas territory of Mexico was named after him, but to avoid provoking authorities, the name was turned into an anagram: Goliad.
In one of those twists that can only occur in real history, and not in fiction, Goliad was the site of a Mexican slaughter of a surrendered Tejian army during the fight for Texas independence. This slaughter so enraged Texans that when they got the drop on Mexican President and Gen. Santa Ana’s army a few days later at San Jacinto, they offered little quarter to the Mexican soldiers, though Santa Ana’s life was spared.
Have a great Grito de Dolores Day, remembering North American history that we all ought to know.
Check out my earlier posts on the Grito, for a longer and more detailed explanation of events, and more sources for teachers and students.
- At Pulzo: “El grito de Dolores, el histriónico ritual de los presidentes mexicanos; Enrique Peña Nieto celebrará este martes la independencia con la tradicional arenga de cada 15 de septiembre.“
- At El Universal, in Caracas, Venezuela: “Mexicanos celebran los 205 años del Grito de Dolores”
- Mexican-Americans celebrate Mexican Independence Day, El Grito! (nbclatino.com)
- Feliz Dia de la Independencia… Vive Mexico! (davemillersmexico.wordpress.com)
- Mexicans mark Independence Day (charlotteobserver.com)
- Mexican Independence Day (mexicohereandthere.com)
- Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month: Why Sept. 15? (blogs.loc.gov)
- ‘El Grito’ Celebration Marks Mexico Independence Day (ktla.com)
- Viva Mexico! (moskitoplayadelcarmenvacationrentals.wordpress.com)