Mexico’s most energetic celebration is, once again, nearly upon us with September 16 marking Mexico’s Independence Day (Dia de Independencia). Millions will kick off the celebration with El Grito (the Cry); a traditional shout of: “Viva México!” But how many know the history of this ritual? Here is a brief, yet interesting, description of the historical events that sparked Mexico’s War of Independence and El Grito.
The story of El Grito and Mexico’s War of Independence
Just before midnight on September 15, 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 working classes of mixed origin, urging them to stand up and take back the lands stolen from their forefathers, ending with the now-famous cry: “Long live Mexico!”
What is not always understood about the start of Mexico’s War of Independence is that the uprising played out far differently than originally 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 which 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, which was starving for freedom from Spain, 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 be rung, and delivered his famous El Grito de Dolores that will be heard round Mexico just before midnight on September 15: “Long live Mexico!”