There’s no holiday season anywhere quite like Mes de la Patria. On September 16, we celebrate the Mexican Day of Independence. Cinco de Mayo isn’t our independence day. We are celebrating our independence from Spain on that day—not our independence from the United States. Please, dear gringo friends, learn this much. Don’t make me explain it to you over and over again.
It’s really more than just a celebration of independence. Think instead of the Estadounidense 4th of July, Rosh Hashanah, Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve all rolled into one.
Even though Costco’s Christmas merchandise has been out on its shelves since the first week of August, the red, white and green decorations you see everywhere are not in celebration of Christmas. Those happen to be the national colors of Mexico, and bunting festoons practically every street and store.
While chiles en nogada is the dish most associated with the holiday, we make a big deal out of all traditional foods, even Jell-O, which is really the national dessert of Mexico. This morning, the fruit cocktail I picked up at the grocery store was done up in the tricolor: jicama, watermelon, and kiwi. My maid’s sister-in-law will attempt, as she does every year, to make tricolor tamales. We really get carried away, right down to wearing costumes which can amount to cowboy clothing, embroidered indigenous attire, rebozos, or even just something in red, white, green or all there. At the intersection, a vendor was selling Frito Bandito mustaches. Yes, I bought a couple. The week before I picked up a couple renditions of the Virgin of Guadalupe swathed in the Mexican flag.
The real celebration begins on the evening of the 15th, and not just because we Mexicans can never wait to begin a holiday. Porfirio Diaz, a president who did a whole lot of good until he overstayed his welcome,dying penniless in Paris, wanted the celebration to take place on his birthday, which happened to be on the 15th, and the idea caught on. At 11 p.m. on the 15th, goose-stepping soldiers (Now don’t get all worked up, we still do the Bellamy salute here, too.) over at the National Palace in the D.F. will hand over the flag to the President, who will be wearing a sash and accompanied by his wife who will be decked out in something Mexican, who’ll wave to the crowd from the balcony. No speeches will follow, just the ringing of the bell and yelling out of the Grito, “¡Mexicanos Viva Mexico! ¡Viva Miguel Hidalgo! ¡Viva Jose Maria Morelos y Pavon! ¡Viva Allende! ¡Viva Josefa Ortiz de Dominguez! ¡Viva Leona Vicario!” (or something like that, because there’s always a slight twist), to which the crowd will respond with “Viva Mexico,” finishing off with a repetition of “Viva Mexico” three times. And then bells will ring again, and the fireworks will follow. At the same time, the governor of each state and the presidente municipal of each city, and even the jefe de la tenencia (head suburban dude) will do likewise. Even those who are gathered together at a restaurant will stop the celebratory meal, stand up and shout out the Grito. If that doesn’t bring tears to your eyes, you’re probably a Communist.
This evening, everyone will be Mexican. And it will rain. It always rains.
And on the 16th, we’ll recuperate, watching the parade, enjoying the federal holiday, and going to the mall.
Because Morelianos can’t get enough of a good thing, we’ll repeat all of that over again on the 29th of the month, which is the eve of Jose Ma. Morelos’ birthday.
The video has been shamelessly appropriated from Daniel Hernandez’ Intersections.