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Mexico’s Grito de Independencia Posted by on Oct 1, 2007 in Holidays

On the night of September 15th the main squares, or zócalos, of even the most tranquil Mexican town buzz with energy and activity as people gather to celebrate their most important national holiday: Independence Day. Participants don clothing and face paint and bear flags normally kept hidden during the rest of the year, converging in a sea of red, white and green. Even the food hawked by street vendors gets a new look to commemorate the occasion, served up on patriotically-hued tortillas or striped with red and green salsa.

As clocks strike eleven o`clock, government leaders across the country climb to balconies and rouse the people in spirited cheers of “Viva México! Viva México! Viva México!” This annual event reenacts Miguel Hidalgo’s famous Grito de Independencia, or Cry of Independence, with which the revolutionary priest rallied the public to take arms against the Spanish in 1810. The reenactment is decidedly the climax of the night, an exuberant display of national pride and historical tradition.

Today’s version of the grito is not entirely faithful to the 1810 original, however. The wording is a bit tamer than that uttered in Dolores, Guanajuato (Hidalgo’s cry called for the death of the Spanish, not particularly the message modern-day Mexico wishes to send). The timing has changed as well. Hidalgo’s grito was actually performed in the early morning hours of September 16th. However, a century later the celebration was moved back to its current scheduling of eleven p.m. on the 15th. Many people consider this simply a sensible change in tradition to allow families to partake in the festivities together. Historians have a more cynical interpretation, suggesting that in fact the event was shifted to accommodate the wishes of Porfirio Diaz, Mexico’s notorious dictator. Before being overthrown at the start of the Mexican Revolution in 1910, Diaz declared that Independence celebrations should commence on the 15th, merging the holiday with another day of national import: his birthday.

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