Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Cry Freedom

Magnet # 342: Mexican Burro

Material: Clay

Purchased By: Mary

Mexico's big day is coming up tomorrow. This, not Cinco de Mayo, is when they celebrate their independence from Spain. The festivities will kick off tonight. Traditionally, it's when the Mexican President rings the bell of the National Palace in Mexico City. Below him, in the Plaza de la Constitucion, one of the largest public plazas worldwide, a crowd of as many as half a million will gather to join in. And mayors and governors all over the nation follow his example with other bells in front of other crowds. But, as this is the 200th anniversary of the Mexican Revolution and Independence, it has been named the "Ano de Patria" or "Year of the Nation" and the festivities will be more exciting than usual. When the President reaches his final year in office, he usually travels to Dolores Hidalgo, where the call to arms was first given, to begin the celebration rather than stay at the National Palace. And this year, in honor of the bicentennial, Dolores Hidalgo will once again be the location where the bell is first rung, despite the fact that the current President still has a couple of years left in his term. There are also other special preparations in place, such as "Ruta 2010" signs appearing on roadways to denote routes linking monuments pertaining to Mexico's independence and two clocks in the Plaza de la Constitucion counting down to September 16th and November 20th, two of the nation's most important dates.

I've mentioned on here before how the Spanish under Hernando Cortes came to what would become Mexico in 1519, and how he and his men ended up pretty much wiping out the native population there. Well, by 1521 the Colonial Period had begun there and it would last for about three centuries. During this time, Spain continued to complete their conquest of the land and put down rebellions. Spanish men traveled into the area, marrying native women and changing the population. But no Mexican natives were permitted to hold administrative offices and few were educated. Their economic system was based upon what benefited Spain. Given these terrible conditions, there were plenty of uprisings against the Spanish, but it wasn't until Napoleon invaded the nation, occupying it in 1807 that Mexico had much of a chance against them. And on September 16 of 1810, a Roman Catholic priest named Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla led the call to arms in Dolores Hidalgo, a small town in central Mexico. He had the church bells rung to gather his followers and gave a stirring speech calling for them to rise up and destroy bad government. Even nowadays, the call he gave is echoed by a Mexican Grito, a cry that resembles a cowboy's "yee-haw," except there are trills at its end. Many revelers at Mexican Independence Day utter this cry. And by November 20 of that same year, fighters under "Pancho" Villa and Pascual Orozco were leading the first attack against the Spanish government. Almost a decade of fighting would continue until Mexico won its independence on September 27 of 1821. And although Hidalgo was put to death for his actions many years before then, the nation he helped create has never forgotten his sacrifice, making the day of his call to arms one of the most important in its calendar. This, not the 5th of May, is the day most dear in Mexican hearts and their current celebration of 200 years of rebellion and independence from their former masters should be an event to remember.


  1. It seems strange we hear so little of this holiday and so much about Cinco de Mayo.