Tuesday, September 16, 2008

16 de Septiembre

Detail of El grito ["shout"] de Dolores (1960-61) by Juan O'Gorman. Mural at the Museo Nacional de Historia, Castillo de Chapultepec, Mexico City. Miguel Hidalgo is the figure in black in the foreground. Image found here.

In case you have been casting about today for a semi-legitimate reason to drink a (good) Mexican beer, you could do worse than this: This is the 198th Mexican Independence Day, commemorating that early morning on this date in 1810 when, in his church in Dolores (now Dolores de Hidalgo), Guanajuato, Father Miguel Hidalgo took down a banner of the Virgen de la Guadalupe from his church and used it as his flag to lead his parishioners, mostly mestizos and Indians, in revolt against Spain. So, in terms of equivalency to dates in our nation's history, it would be something like celebrating the anniversary of the battles of Lexington and Concord as our Independence Day.

In every public square in Mexico at midnight, the people gather to hear the city's mayor or, if it's a state capital, the governor stand at a balcony to re-enact the "Grito" Hidalgo used to lead his army to fight. The YouTube below is of last year's Grito in Mexico City, with President Calderón leading the Grito. The narration is in Spanish but it is, visually, mostly self-explanatory. Two brief notes, though. The color guard you see at the beginning represents the Niños héroes ("boy heroes"), the legendary young cadets who, rather than surrender to the U.S. army as it stormed Chapultepec during the Mexican War ("From the halls of Montezuma . . ."), wrapped themselves in a Mexican flag and jumped off a cliff to their death. The second comment is that the square you see is the Zócalo, which, I was once told, is the third-largest public square in the world; when full (and it probably was last night), it can hold well over 200,000 people.

Third note: Mexicans love their fireworks.

The other reason today is noteworthy is that a month from now will be the first full day in Mexico City for the Mrs. and me. I'm going there to do some picture-taking for sabbatical work, and she will have her first substantive experience in a foreign country (a couple of hours in Nuevo Laredo do not count, she figures). How fortunate for both of us that many of the things I want to get pictures of just happen to be at places that first-time visitors should visit . . . or are on their way to said places. While there, we'll also have the pleasure of meeting René, a long-time friend of this blog and the writer of Teoría del Caos, and we have a day trip to Cuernavaca planned as well.

What's that term . . . ? Oh, yes: "working vacation."

There was a time when I didn't like that term so much.


R. Sherman said...

Very cool.

I've always wanted to get into "the outback" of Mexico. I'm hesitant about the northern towns close to the border, but I've had a few wonderful experiences with the Mayans in the backwoods of the Yucatan. I'd love to experience that again.


John B. said...

The one time I visited Mérida, I was bowled over by the genuine warmth of the people there--this, in comparison to folks in the north where I was living at the time, who are pretty darned friendly, too. All is relative.

You are right about the border: it is a sad and very hard place, especially since our nation has tightened up legal as well as illegal crossings into the U.S. It's, shall we say, not the best place to get a sense of what Mexico and Mexicans are like.