Some countries have one day to celebrate their country’s independence day. México has a whole month. September is known as El Mes de la Patria (month of the homeland), but mainly, it’s two days of fireworks displays, reunions, El Grito de Dolores (The Cry of Dolores), dances, and tons of food that make up the way México celebrates independence day.
You may be wondering, why a whole month? Another differing factor that distinguishes Mexican Independence Day from other country independence day celebrations, is the fact that México recognizes its Independence on September 16th, the day that la revolucíon, or the beginning of the revolution, commenced, back in 1810. This date was not exactly the day that México became the independent country we know today, however. Freedom from Spain was not exactly achieved…yet.
The road to independence had just started officially on September 16th, 1810. Full independence wouldn’t come until September 27, 1821, and even then, the Spanish still stuck around in a small corner of México until 1825, when México had its first president, Guadalupe Victoria, in the newly formed democratic country. After the first president rose, the Spanish were overthrown – adios España!!
So with this mini introduction, and in light of September 16th coming in a few days, in today’s blog post, I’ll be sharing with you how México celebrates its Independence Day! If you ever wondered how hard and full of energy México goes into celebrating this major party, along with just what is included in the celebration, and it’s history, then keep reading!
Also, stick around for the ultimate Mexican playlist to celebrate El Mes de la Patria (month of the homeland). It’s a good one, surely will make you dance; Mexican or not, as well as add more cultural context to this post for an overall experience 🇲🇽
The Spanish first set foot on Mexican soil around the early 1500’s, and was to be conquered and enslaved for the next 300 years, as well as being renamed New Spain. The Mexican people were exploited, forced to work in harsh conditions for the Spanish, tearing down their own pyramids to use the same rocks to build up cathedrals, amongst other types of intensive work to reconstruct and also convert Mexicans into Catholicism.
Years later, religious leader, Miguel Hidalgo, recognized by Mexicans as the father of the Mexican Independence, is considered as such as he is considered to be as such because of what he did within the early hours of September 16th, 1810. El Grito de Dolores, or the famous Cry of Dolores, was the moment in which Miguel Hidalgo rang the church bells in the town of Dolores in Guanajuato (hence name the Cry of Dolores), and cried out to the townspeople to initiate the revolt against the current Spanish rule. The townspeople gathered, energized, ready to bring down the Spanish rule.
However, he was unfortunately beheaded when Spanish colonial authorities found out about the planned revolt later on, and the Spanish displayed his head in the town square for others to see in horrible detail what would happen to them if they decided to continue with the movement.
As history shows, the movement still continued with other religious leaders secretly organizing, and the townspeople, which included criollos (Mexican-born of Spanish descent) and mestizos (people of native Mexican and European descent) joining forces- the Mexican War of Independence would be fought for the next 11 years, and finally won on September 27, 1821.
Celebrations on September 15th
Every state celebrates Independence Day – from big cities, to small villages. The most famous and often televised celebration goes down in México City, in El Zocalo, which is the main square in the historic zone of México City, where the modern day government palace is. Historically, El Zocalo was the same location where the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan was located. This makes this location an especially symbolic and sacred space for México and Mexicans.
The president then stands on the balcony, amongst all those who have gathered in El Zocalo, awaiting El Grito, or The Cry of Dolores once announced by Hidalgo, to initiate the Mexican struggle towards independence in 1810. It is a PACKED celebration in El Zocalo, but quite an incredible and energetic experience. There is a flag-honoring ceremony inside the government palace, where the military marches a couple of steps to deliver the flag to the President – this is accompanied by the sound of the National Anthem performed by a marching band. The president steps out into the balcony with the flag and his wife beside him.
The President then shares a few words to the Mexican people, both present, throughout the country, and throughout the world (those watching on TV), and he begins to name each national hero who fought for Mexican Independence: Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, Juan Aldama, Ignacio Allende, Nicolás Bravo, Mariano Jiménez, José María Morelos y Pavón, Vicente Guerrero, Josefa Ortiz de Dominguez, Mariano Matamoros, Francisco Javier Mina, Guadalupe Victoria, and more!
After each name is called, the crowd chants Viva! (long live). After the President mentions all the National Heroes, he then yells Viva México, a couple of times, and the crowd chants back in response, various times. Then the President rings the original liberty bell that Hidalgo rang in 1810 as a symbol of the fight towards independence.
The night sky then turns red, white, and green, as fireworks light up the sky, Mexican music is playing all around, and the crowd energizes with Mexican pride.
The parties continue, the food and drinks keep making rounds, and all of Mexico and Mexicans all over celebrate this day! Many cities within the U.S. – Los Angeles, Houston, San Diego, Chicago, and more have big parades and celebrations between the 15th and the 16th, as well as many other cities around the world – even if it’s just a small gathering of Mexican expats, or traveling mariachi’s – they all find a way to pay homage to their country’s independence, wherever they are.
Celebrations on September 16th
Back in Mexico, typically, September 15h and 16th are taken as a 2 day holiday from work and school by many, and therefore, really party it up! The 16th is a day to wake up late, recuperate from the festivities of the night before, and gather energy to go to the parade taking place on the second half of the festivities! Towns and cities all over México will usually carry out parades, showcasing the military, charros (Mexican cowboys and their horses) various traditional wear and dances from all over the Mexican republic, children dressed as the National Heroes, music, festive floats, and more!
The biggest parade however, is also in México City, with the Military Parade, which is unfortunately not televised all over the world, but is within México. Nowadays however thanks to YouTube, many people film and post it on there.
People all over keep celebrating on this day, with family, friends, good food and drinks and good music- truly living out all the things that make them Mexican.
Typical foods and drinks
If you’ve read my post on Mexican food, you’d know that México is extremely rich in the varieties of dishes and specialty ingredients that make up the cuisine, from northern Mexican ranch inspired cuisine, to southern, Mayan influenced dishes. During Independence Day, Mexicans go all out and cook their favorite dishes such as enchiladas, pozole, tamales, fresh seafood, carne asada (bbq’s), tostadas, and of course, tacos.
Tequila is an obvious choice for many, as well as drinks like Mezcal, local specialty alcoholic drinks and local beers. For non-alcoholic drinks, beverages such as traditional horchata, and other aguas frescas made from hibiscus flower, tamarind pods, and other fruits, are always crowd pleasers.
Desserts vary, but mostly opt for pastel de tres leches (three milk cake), churros, flan, gelatinas (gelatin) in the colors of the Mexican flag, and more!
Music, food, and a whole lot of green, white, and red.
Related: A Culinary Tour of México
Speaking of music, don’t forget to claim access to the private Spotify playlist with all the music to get you dancing and feeling Mexican 😉 I have been listening to it non-stop as I wrote this post, and then some. It always puts me in a good mood, and music is such an eye-opening and beautiful way to discover a culture that’s not yours. Behind the music, this is one of my favorite ways to discover a new culture. Here’s your chance!
Would you want to experience a Mexican Independence Day celebration?
It’s truly THE event of the year in México, culturally speaking. It’s full of life, energy, food/drinks, smiles, and pride. Many non-mexicans have gone, and shared their experiences through a blog post or YouTube video, and many share the surprising amount of celebrating that goes on not just in the two days, but the month.
Would you like to celebrate Mexican independence day in México? Let me know in the comments below, or if you’ve experienced Mexican independence day in previous years! I’d love to know about your experience.
To many more ✨fiestas✨ like these,