By Susan Fogel
“Listen my children and you shall hear of the midnight ride of Paul Revere.” Those are the opening words of Longfellow’s poem, published almost 100 years after the American Revolution. And school children all over the nation learned the words to the poem and the story it told. As the story goes, some friends of Paul Revere were to light lanterns in the tower of Old North Church in Boston to tell him if the British were coming by land or sea (“One if by land, two if by sea”) He would then ride through the towns alerting the people. The story has been embroidered and embellished and Paul Revere has become a hero and superpatriot, but he did not ride alone. In fact, there were many backup riders that spread the word that the British were coming.
And so, Mexico has an Independence Day legend re-enacted in towns and villages and from the nation’s capital in Mexico City. Like Independence Day celebrations in the US, the day is marked with pomp, parties, and patriotism. And legends of epic proportions.
On September 15, 1810 Miguel Hidalgo y Castillo called on the people from the steps of his church in Dolores Hidalgo in Guanajuato. He commanded his brother and others to march on the jail and demand the release of 80 or more political prisoners. Two of those that went to the sheriff with their demands were Ignacio Allende and Mariano Abasolo. Those are two names that everyone reading this should recognize. Just as most larger towns in the US have streets named after Martin Luther King and John F. Kennedy, so are streets named for these heroes in towns across Mexico.
When we first arrived in La Paz and embarked on pool construction, I said to my Beloved, “Beloved, there will be no workers at the house tomorrow.” “How do you know?” he asked. And my response was that tomorrow is the 16th of September, and there was a BIG street named for that day.
Clue about holidays here: if there is a street named with a date, there will be a holiday.
So at around sunrise on 16 September 1810, Hidalgo ordered the church bells rung, and exhorted his parishioners to revolt against the “bad government” also known as “The Spanish”. This exhortation to revolution became known as El Grito de Dolores or the Cry of Dolores. The first battle fought in the war for independence occurred on September 20th in Guanajuato. Mexico would not win her independence from Spain for ten more years. The Declaration of Independence from the Mexican Empire was made on 27 September 1821.
No one knows the exact words that Hidalgo used to exhort his people to insurrection, and the famous speech of Cry of Dolores is not recorded, and many other people contributed with parts of the oration. And everyone has an opinion of what was said, and who said it. But today Miguel Hidalgo, a Catholic priest is anointed with the responsibility of calling the people to rise up against their oppressors.
In October 1825, the Cry of Dolores had an official name change to El Grito de La Independencia or the Cry of Independence. On every September 15th, the president of Mexico rings the bells at the National Palace in Mexico City around eleven p.m. He then reads the following poem and the crowd responds with the last lines “Viva Mexico, Viva Mexico, Viva Mexico! The president waves the national flag during the shouting, then at the end, rings the bell again. And then there are fireworks. The next day is for parades and parties.
Long live the heroes that gave us the Fatherland!
Long live Hidalgo!
Long live Morelos!
Long live Josefa Ortiz de Dominguez!
Long live Allende!
Long live Aldama and Matamoros!
Long live National Independence!
Long Live Mexico! Long Live Mexico! Long Live Mexico!
The crowds in the Zocalo in Mexico City are enormous and tourists, as well as Mexicans, come from near and far to be part of El Grito. It is customary for Mexican presidents to visit the church in Dolores Hidalgo on the last Independence Day of their term. President Calderon broke with tradition and visited the church of Dolores Hidalgo on September 15th, 2010, as part of the bicentennial celebrations. Have you noticed the foil bunting and the red, green, and white décor festooning the governor’s palace on Isabel La Catolica near Allende? It is dressed and ready for El Grito coming up in a few short weeks. There will be a huge crowd, the shout, and then fireworks! If you don’t mind crowds, and also hoofing it from a parking spot somewhere blocks away, it is an energetic and enthusiastic crowd, and you will be stirred to take part in El Grito. Viva Mexico! Susan Fogel is the broker-owner of Prestigepropertygrouplapaz.com and you can follow her blog at www.mexicomusings.com. She will watch the fireworks from her terrace on the beach.