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When is Mexican Independence Day?

Published: Thursday, 19 Nov 2015
Author: Joy M Whitten
Department: Latin American Studies Center

On September 16, 2015 CLACS marked Mexican Independence Day at Grand Ledge High School in Ginger Metevier's Spanish class. Students learned about the historical event and similarities between the US' struggle for independence with that of Mexico's.  While many in the US may think that Cinco de Mayo or May 5th is Mexican Independence Day, CLACS sought to dispel misconceptions and stereotypes with the students. 

Mexican Independence was declared on September 16, 1810. Miguel Hidalgo, a local priest from the city of Dolores, planed a rebellion against Spanish colonial rule. When Napoleon Bonaparte and French military invaded Spain, Mexico saw this as an opportunity to fight for its independence from Spain under the guise of fighting against the French invaders.  The Spanish discovered Hidalgo's conspiracy to attack and began to round up the Mexican leaders as traitors -- not patriots.  This caused Hidalgo and what remained of the group's leaders to accelerate their plans.  Hidalgo rang the bell of the church of Dolores and delivered his famous speech "El Grito de Dolores" (The Cry of Dolores) as a symbol to start the revolution on the early morning of September 16, 1810.   Students could compare this story to that of Paul Revere warning that the British were coming.

Hidalgo led troops to victory in several battels in several cities in Mexico but was captured in 1811. His death did not end the independence effort.  On September 27, 1821 Mexico finally achieved its independence as a nation.

Mexico and the US celebrate their independence in similar manners.  However, in addition to the parades, fireworks, and festive foods, Mexico has a more formal ceremony to mark the occasion.  Just as the US celebrates his independence day with fireworks and so forth, so does Mexico but with a more formal ceremony. Every year at 11 pm on September 15th, Mexico's president repeats the patriotic act of Miguel Hidalgo and rings the bell of the National Palace shouting "Viva Mexico" three times while waiving the Mexican's flag. This ceremony is recognized as "El Grito" (the cry or scream). Each of the 31 states in Mexico and their small towns have their own celebration similar to the one in Mexico City. The next day, September 16, the festivities continue with a national military parade at the zocalo (main square) in Mexico City.  Other states have their own parades that include participation of local officials, and middle and high schools.

This left the question of what's the significance of Cinco de Mayo?  Similar to the War of 1812 in the US, the Battle for Puebla in 1862 marked a time when a new nation successfully defended itself against a floundering colonial power.  French forces invaded Mexico in an attempt to gain territory and keep its hold in the Americas.  Cinco de Mayo marks the Mexican defeat over the French and Mexico's ability to exist as a sovereign country.  After a game of Loteria, similar to Bingo, students were left to ponder a question.  While celebrating this day in the US is a way to give Mexican-Americans an event to share and raise awareness about Mexico – is it raising awareness or misinformation?