Walk around almost any town or city in Mexico during the month of September and you’ll see streets, town squares, schools, shops, and commercial centers being dressed in patriotic decorations showing-off a display of reds, whites, and greens— Mexico’s official colors.
Ambulant vendors selling Mexican flags are everywhere during the first half of September. If you’re looking for a Mexican flag, this is the easiest time of year to acquire one, as almost every major street corner has someone selling them, from the small plastic flags which attach to a car or window, to colossal flags of monumental proportions—and everything in between.
September 16th is Mexico’s official Independence Day and a national holiday. On the night of September 15th, state officials in towns and cities across the country re-enact Miguel Hidalgo’s pre-dawn grito de independencia (cry of independence), which originally took place in the small town of Dolores Hidalgo, near San Miguel de Allende, in 1810. The festivities which take place to celebrate the country’s independence are some of the liveliest you’ll experience in Mexico.
The most popular provincial cities to attend for Independence Day celebrations are San Miguel de Allende and nearby Dolores Hidalgo—the ‘cradle towns’ of the independence movement. Other popular provincial cities where lively celebrations take place include Guanajuato, Querétaro, Oaxaca, and Puebla, although celebrations are national and every town and city will mark the occasion in its town square.
In Mexico City, the capital’s zócalo (main square) swells with thousands of people who attend to hear the country’s President re-enact the grito from the balcony of the National Palace. If you want to experience the atmosphere of Independence Day celebrations in downtown Mexico City on the night of the 15th, it’s advisable to arrive early, and use the capital’s Metro system to get there and away. (Line 2 of the Metro takes you to the heart of the city: alight at the station named ‘Zocalo’ and you’ll step-up and out from there on to the city’s main square.)
Traditionally, egg-shells filled with confetti are thrown and crushed on people during the celebrations, so we also recommend that leave your ‘Sunday best’ clothes in the wardrobe if you attend a local fiesta—at the town square, or elsewhere.
Travel Tips for Independence Day Celebrations
In 2018, September 15th and 16th fall on a Saturday and Sunday, which means that the ‘holiday weekend’ will be especially busy on the roads, at bus stations, and airports across the country. Be sure to build-in some additional travel time for your plans.
If you’re planning to travel within Mexico over the independence day holiday period, some forward-planning will be required. Bus travel is especially popular with Mexicans at this time, so expect bus stations and bus services to be full; it’s a good idea to buy your tickets in advance from the bus station, by telephone, or online.
If you are driving to your destination from the capital, take note that the cardinal roads leading in/out of Mexico City—Cuernavaca (south), Querétaro (north), Puebla (southeast), and Toluca (west)—will be heavy and slow for road trippers at the start of the holiday period, and again on the afternoon when people return.
Celebrating Sovereignty in Mexico
Independence Day on September 16 is the most widely celebrated of Mexico’s four political national holidays. It’s no wonder this is so as it marks the events that led to the creation of the Mexican Republic following three centuries of Spanish colonial rule.
The other three political holidays: marking the promulgation of the 1917 Constitution (in February); the birth of 19th century president Benito Juárez (in March); and the start of the 1910-1917 Revolution (in November) pale in comparison with the September independence holiday. Those three have all been moved, since 2006, to the nearest Monday, as part of an initiative to create long weekends, similar to Bank Holidays in the UK, which stimulate tourism.
Not so ‘El Grito‘ which is always held on the night of September 15, and followed by a national day-off on the 16th. Legislators considered that the Independence holiday, like the May 1 international Labor Day, was too significant to be tampered with for the sake of convenience or economics.
September 16 competes with other national holidays in a number of ways.
Like Christmas, it’s a time for lighting up public places with decorations in the green, white and red national colors, including images in neon of the country’s Independence heroes: Miguel Hidalgo, the priest who rang the bell on September 16, 1810, in the town of Dolores, and set the independence movement from Spain in motion; and José María Morelos, the priest who continued the revolutionary work of Hidalgo, making a name for himself as one of the most able of Mexico’s military commanders.
Like New Year, it involves people getting together for an evening meal or party, and waiting to 11 p.m. (instead of midnight) when political leaders from the president down to local mayors re-enact Hidalgo’s call to arms from the balcony of the National Palace, or from countless state and municipal buildings across the nation. These hundreds of simultaneous “gritos” of “Viva México!” are followed by bombardments of fireworks.
These gatherings also have their typical foods, and an Independence Day fiesta is incomplete without pozole, a tasty broth made with white corn, pork or chicken, and served with radishes, oregano, and other spices.
Flags abound, and entertainments include the military parade in Mexico City, with planes flying in formation over the capital. (Mexico City’s airport is closed to commercial flights for several hours on the 16th.)
The Mazatlan Post