#MexicoToday: The time of Mexico’s most energetic celebration is once again upon us as Saturday, September 16th marks Mexico’s 202nd Independence Day. Millions will kick off the celebration with “El Grito,” the traditional cry of: “Viva México!” But how many understand the actual history of this ritual? Here is a brief, yet interesting, description of the historical events that sparked Mexico’s war of Independence.
Just before midnight on September 15th, 1810, Miguel Hidalgo, a priest from the small town of Dolores near Guanajuato in Mexico’s Colonial Heartland made an impulsive decision that revolutionized Mexican history and resulted in the war that led to Mexico’s independence. Ordering the church bells to be rung, Hidalgo cried out to the native Mexicans and the lower classes of mixed blood urging them to stand up and take back the lands stolen from their forefathers and ending with the now-famous Grito: “Long live Mexico!”
What is not always understood about the start of Mexico’s war of independence is that the upraising enfolded much differently than was planned. After three centuries of Spanish rule in Mexico, the ruling class had bred itself into a hierarchy of two levels: the Gachupines (Spanish born aristocrats) at the top and the Criollos (Mexican-born Spaniards) just below.
Before the night of Hidalgo’s cry, a movement of political revolution had already begun when Napoleon conquered Spain. The Criollos, of whom Hidalgo was a member, saw this instability as an opportunity to overthrow the Gachupines and claim ruling stature. They planned to begin their push for power in December of 1810; however, the Criollos were betrayed, and Hidalgo was forced to make a quick decision – flee to safety and begin forming a new plot or turn to his parish, starving for freedom from Spain altogether, and seize the opportunity to spark a true revolution for independence. Choosing to stay and fight, Hidalgo sped to his church, ordered the bells to rung, and delivered the famous cry that will be heard round Mexico just before midnight this Thursday: “Long live México!”