There's no doubt about it, Catholicism is a big thing in my Country and above all, we (as a people, this is not about me) are devoted followers of the Virgin of Guadalupe, so no surprise when the number one important holiday in Mexico turns out to be December 12th, the Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe. It is pure chaos because almost everyone works half-day but the city is bursting with people coming from every corner of the country in an endless procession. Some in cars, some walking, some in knees!! all trying to get to the Basilica dedicated to our Patron.
The second most important holiday would have to be September 15th, our Independence Day. Now, this is where things got twisted somehow. Don't ask me why but people in the US (including Mexican-Americans) celebrate 5 de Mayo as the great patriotic party but it isn't! Actually, in Mexico we barely remember that day and it's celebrated in no way or manner. However, September 15th is big, and when I say big I don't meant to say fireworks-big, I mean monthly-ilumination-of-every-street, decorations-hanged-from-every-public-building, fireworks, fairs, costume-party, drinking-and-eating-party-in-every-house big. You see, the one thing we mexicans know how to do is partying.
There is a very specific ritual to the celebration and it has its reasons, so I'll first give you a bit of background and then I'll share what my family, in particular, do for this date.
Back in 1810, Mexico was under Spain's boot and it was hard being anything other than spaniard. There were four classes of people: Spaniards, which represented the minority but held the best positions in public office and every social benefit; Criollos, which were born of spaniard mother and father but in the New Spain and had no access to the politic elite; Mestizos and Indios made the two lowest casts, one born from the union of locals and spaniards, the other (and the lowest in the ladder), the original inhabitants of the lands. Since most Indians had no other education but religious, the independent movement was organized by Criollos. The Father of our country, Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, had two important attributes that made him the perfect leader of the insurgency: He was a priest and a criollo.
For months the insurgency planned and rumours ran rampant but the night of September 15th the King's Forces discovered the place where the meetings were taking place and sent a group of soldiers to off the traitors. When the news reached the group, forced into action, Don Miguel Hidalgo decided to do the best he could to mount a serious resistance and kick start the War of Independence. He rang the bell of his church, convoking every member of his congregation and, uttering an inflamed speech, he armed them with clubs and whatever thing could've served as a weapon. And so it started the first of two horrible wars that brought a lot of blood and pain to my country but also gave us an identity.
These days, we try to replicate a bit the original call to action of that september of 1810. Last year was the bicentenary of our independence and I'll post here a video of the celebration in the Historic Quarters of the city, better known as El Zocalo. But first I'll share with you a few of the fondest memories of my childhood.
We are a big family on my father's side; my mother's side is even bigger but we always celebrated Independence Day with my father's. Between uncles, cousins, grandparents, brothers, sisters, and a couple of friends, we massed something like thirty people. Everyone convened in preparing one typical mexican meal (don't get me started with the food, that's a whole new entry); we gathered in my grandma's house and everyone had to be disguised in period clothing. Quite amusing for all the youngsters. We'd eat, chat and drink, and close to midnight (the hour when traditionally it is believed the original call to war was uttered) one of my uncle's would wear a wig and special clothing so he resembled Miguel Hidalgo. He'd go atop a table set for that purpose and would reenact El Grito (that's how it's called). Then he would sound a bell close to him and all of us would yell and make crazy noise. The party went on until all hours of the night but everyone in the block was doing the same thing, so no problem.
Ah, the memories... I have to tell you, to this day my skin crawls in patriotism when I see our president in turn screaming to the top of his lungs VIVA MEXICO! and all the people answering VIVA!! There's no other feeling like it and I'm never more mexican that during those brief minutes...
Feliz Dia de la Independencia!