22 October 2007

El Grito de la Independencia

[This post has been in the works for over a month. I am catching up on my blog so I thought I would post what I have written so far, so just pretend it's September 16 and not a month later...]

When I arrived in Mexico City over a month ago, I thought that the patriotic decorations hanging in the Zócalo and along some of the main avenues in the Centro Histórico were standard. As the weeks passed, more and more decorations went up – massive Mexican flags hanging from buildings, green, white and red lights all the way up the Torre Mayor, paper cutouts in the same colors hanging in every restaurante and taquería. And then, last week, several taxistas had asked me if I had seen how beautiful they made the city center, and I finally realized that it was all in preparation for La Independencia, the celebration of Mexican Independence.

Similar to our July 4th, September 15th and 16th are dedicated to the patriotic celebration. The Mexicans spend the better part of a month preparing their city to commemorate the day on which they gained their independence. The beauty of this celebration is that it last for two days. September 15th is the Grito de Independencia, followed by the actual Día de Independencia on the 16th. The grito might be the most visceral way to proclaim patriotic pride that I have ever witnessed - the word itself means "shout." From the balcony of my friends' apartment overlooking the main plaza in Coyoacán, we observed the pre-independence day festivities with awe. Contrary to my expectations (an outdoor party scene of drunken fools shooting off guns into the air from the Brad Pitt/Julia Roberts movie, "The Mexican" comes to mind), it was actually a very well-planned. We observed from above the festival going on down below, listened to the many musical acts ranging from opera to pop to mariachi, and watched fireworks shoot up over our heads. The mayor of the delegación proclaimed the Grito, and everyone responded with a heartfelt enthusiasm that I haven't quite experienced before, "¡VIVA MÉXICO!" I have a video of it below:

Youtube also has a version of the Grito as proclaimed by the President in the Zócalo: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xkSErOBJpto. Needless to say, it's a little more than some flags and a barbeque; it's actually quite similar to New Year's Eve in Times Square...

There is also a parade the following morning in the city center. In a fine display of military force, every uniformed service person of the what seemed like the whole country marched through the Zócalo for about 2 1/2 hours, with frequent fly-bys of the air divisions. We had been asking the resident Mexicans what time the desfile militar began for the better part of a week. In true Mexican fashion, we got answers ranging from 8 AM to 11:30 AM, and decided to err on the side of caution, waking up at 6:30 the morning after the Grito to get a prime spot in the Zócalo to watch everyone pass by. The parade ended up starting around 10:00, so from that point forward, we began taking the average answer to any question about time or distance, because although one person may not be correct, the masses are. It ranged from military engineering cadets to the special armed forces, followed by a finale of the finest traditional dancing horses. An elderly couple standing next to us graciously shared some tomales, both spicy and sweet, and a 5-gallon bucket to stand on to gain a better perspective. It was a very cool experience, and there will be photos on my website, which you can check out at the link up top on the right.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good stuff, Lisa! Can't wait to see you during the holidays.

Love 'ya,

Uncle Chris.