Each year on the night of September 15th, the President of Mexico re-enacts the event of the Grito de Dolores which was the battle cry of the Mexican War of Independence. This was uttered on September 16th, 1810 by Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, a Roman Catholic priest from the small town of Dolores, near Guanajuato.
Hidalgo and several educated criollos were involved in a planned revolt against the Spanish colonial government, and when the plotters were betrayed, he declared that war should be waged against the Spaniards.
Just before midnight on September 15th, 1810, Hidalgo ordered the church bells to be rung and gathered his congregation. Flanked by Ignacio Allende and Juan Aldama, he addressed the people in front of his church, encouraging them to revolt. The exact words of the speech are lost, however, it is believed that he cried “Long Live Our Lady of Guadaloupe, death to the government and death to the Spaniards.
The Battle of Guanajuato, the first major engagement of the insurgency, occurred 4 days later. Mexico’s independence would not be recognized by the Spanish crown until September 27th, 1821, after a decade of war. This event has since assumed an almost mythic status. Since the late 19th century, Hidalgo y Costilla’s “cry of independence” has become emblematic of Mexican independence.
Every year the President repeats a cry of patriotism based upon the “Grito de Dolores” from the balcony of the palace to the assembled crowd in the Plaza de la Constitucion, or Zocalo, one of the largest public plazas in the world. This event draws up to half a million spectators. On the dawn of September 16th or Independence Day, the national military parade starts in the Zocalo, passes the Hidalgo Memorial and ends on the Paseo de la Reforma, Mexico City’s main boulevard. Similar celeb rations, on a smaller scale, occur in cities and towns all over Mexico. The mayor or governor rings a bell and gives the traditional words.
In the 20th century, it became common practice for Mexican presidents in their final year in office to re-enact he Grito de Dolores.
Tomorrow, September 16th, many banks and businesses will be closed for the parade in Chapala but also many will be closed today.
Many restaurants in Ajijic, Lake Chapala re-enact the Grito on the night of September 15th and the words “Viva Mexico, Viva, Viva” ring out in many locations. This is a most worthwhile marking of Independence Day and should be enjoyed by Mexicans and ex-pats alike.