Traveler looks at the holiday’s origins, customs, traditions, and explores how Mexican Independence Day is celebrated today. Got your own way of marking the holiday? Let us know on Facebook.
What is it?
Not to be confused with Cinco de Mayo, which commemorates the Mexican army’s victory over the French forces of Napoleon III on May 5, 1862, at the Battle of Puebla, Mexican Independence Day marks September 16, 1810, the day when priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla urged Mexicans to rise up against the colonial government of Spain. The call today is often referred to as the Grito de Dolores, or Cry of Dolores, named after the town of Dolores—now Dolores Hidalgo—where the cry was originally uttered. (According to the Library of Congress, Hidalgo is believed to have said, “My Children, a new dispensation comes to us today…Will you free yourselves? Will you recover the lands stolen 300 years ago from your forefathers by the hated Spaniards? We must act at once.”) Independence was not won immediately, but that day—and its uprising—is typically considered the beginning of war that eventually brought the country independence in 1821.
How it’s celebrated in Mexico
Though September 16 is a day of full-blown festivities, celebrations of Mexican Independence Day actually begin at 11 p.m. on September 15, when Mexico’s president rings a bell at the National Palace in Mexico City and repeats Hidalgo’s famous words, to crowds that have gathered at the Plaza de la Constitución, or Zócalo, one of the largest public plazas in the world. After each line, many of which tout key figures in the revolutionary, the spectators—an estimated more than 500,000 citizens and tourist—chant back, “¡Viva!” (This ritual is repeated in squares around the country.)
¡Vivan los héroes que nos dieron patria!
¡Viva Josefa Ortíz de Dominguez!
¡Vivan Aldama y Matamoros!
¡Viva la Independencia Nacional!
¡Viva México! ¡Viva México! ¡Viva México!
Long live the heroes who gave us our homeland!
Long live Hidalgo!
Long live Morelos!
Long live Josefa Ortíz de Dominguez!
Long live Allende!
Long live Aldama and Matamoros!
Long live the independence of our nation!
Long live Mexico! Long live Mexico! Long live Mexico!
Streets are decorated with flags, flowers, and lights in the flag’s colors of green, white, and red. There are parades, rodeos, bullfights, and street parties, and more vendors than usual sell an assortment of whistles, horns, and toys. Fireworks (and fire) too, are a large part of the celebration: braided stalks of willow and palm are set aflame, and sell—and launch—fireworks and firecrackers.
Where you can celebrate
In the U.S., the celebration in Mexico City’s Zócalo is broadcast annually on Univison. Looking to do more than live vicariously, or missed the celebration in your city? Here are some places where you can still mark the occasion this year:
San Diego: The House of Mexico is hosting its first Mexican Independence Day celebration from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday at Spreckels Organ Pavilion, where the Mexican consul will perform the traditional “grito.”
Santa Fe: El Grito de Independencia, sponsored by the Mexican Consulate in Albuquerque, will be held from 3 to 8 p.m. on September 17 in the Santa Fe Plaza in the return of what many hope will be an annual tradition—the last time city residents celebrated Mexican Independence Day in the space was 1844.
Los Angeles: The East Los Angeles Mexican Independence Day Parade & Festival kicks off on Sunday, September 18 at 10 a.m. with a parade that lasts until 11:30, followed by a festival from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the corner of Cesar Chavez Boulevard and Mednik Avenue.
Houston: Traders Village, the largest, most visited flea marketplace and festival complex on the Texas Gulf Coast, will be transformed for Mexican Independence Day celebrations on September 18 (dubbed “Fiestas Patrias”) from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.: Dancers from folkloric groups in the region spin to traditional Mexican music, and at celebration’s end, a Miss Fiestas Patrias is crowned.
Minneapolis: Celebrate with thousands of others at the annual Mexican Independence Day Parade Festival, which begins at 11 a.m. and ends at 7 p.m. at East Lake Street between Portland Ave South and 2nd Avenue South.