16 Septiembre: Mexican Independence: Why is this Holiday So Important for Our Kids

Posted: Apr 21 2014

Diez y seis de septiembre is coming up. In communities in the U.S. with a strong Latino presence, families and businesses are getting ready to celebrate el grito de Dolores,the cry of independence that signaled the start of Mexico’s war of Independence. While July 4th is the U.S.’ independence day – the 16thof September is Mexico’s.

Why is this so important for our children to know? More than just a reason to party, eat and listen to mariachis, this holiday is the U.S.’ neighbors’ independence day (and the heritage of many Hispanics). Mexico’s independence was its declaration that it would not allow itself to be destroyed by the soldiers and representatives of Spain and France.

The history of the Mexican peoples’ oppression began back in August of 1521, when Spanish troops captured Cuauhtemoc, the last emperor of the Aztec people. Once this happened, the Spaniards and their allies, the Mexican indigenous allies overran Tenochtitlan, which was the Aztec capital’s empire.

The indigenous races (mixed races) had lived for centuries under Aztec rule. The Aztecs had put economic and physical hardships on their subjects and, when the indigenous peoples saw the Spaniards, they thought this was their chance to get out from under the Aztecs so they would have a better life.

Instead, they got three hundred years of Spanish rule, new diseases and even more slavery. Worse, under the Spaniards, society grew even more divided, with the Spaniards occupying the top echelon. Next came the Criollos, who were Mexicans born from Spanish parents, then Mestizos, mixed-blood children of the Spanish and Natives, then the Indians and finally the Negros, or African slaves. Over the centuries, the Criollos grew angrier and angrier with their situation.

Napoleon de Bonaparte invaded Spain in 1808; he then chose his brother, Jose Bonaparte as Spain’s new king. It was at this time that the Criollos saw their chance to declare their independence from Spain.

In 1810, they decided they would begin their revolt in October, but their plans were discovered. They decided to rebel in September instead. Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, along with Dona Josef Ortiz de Dominguez and Ignacio Allende, rang his church’s bell, signaling the start of the revolution. The War of Independence would last for 10 years. The crowd of 600 revolutionaries raised the battle cry, “Death to the Gachupines!” (Death to the Spaniards!)

The long war for independence made it clear to the Mexicans that they, and they alone were responsible for their country and culture. Despite the strict stratification of Mexican society, they began working together and fighting against the Spaniards to free themselves from Spanish rule.

That is why today, we celebrate, not only in Mexico, but in the United States. Diez y seis de septiembre marks the beginning of Fiestas Patrias,or patriotic festivals, reminding us to remember why Fr. Hidalgo, Dona Josefa and so many other Mexicans started the Mexican fight for independence.

While the celebrations are fun, it’s a time that’s meant to remind us of the sacrifices that were made for us. Different celebrations and food are an important part of Mexican Independence Day.

  • Traditional dishes such as Mole Poblano, guacamole, chips and Chiles de Nogada are served. Antojitos, or finger foods are also prepared. Punch made from in-season fruits is also made and served.
  • People dress in traditional Mexican dress, with women wearing indigenous dresses and men dressing as charros.
  • Mariachis play and sing, helping to make the celebration even more fun.

In Mexico, the president appears at the zocalo (main square) in Mexico City. He rings the bell used by Fr. Hidalgo, commemorating el grito. Crowds gathered to watch the commemoration begin yelling out “¡Viva, Mexico!

-Barbara Alvarez

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