Puerto Vallarta, Mexico – The time of Mexico’s most energetic celebration is once again upon us as Saturday, September 16th marks Mexico’s 213th Independence Day. Millions will kick off the celebration at 11 pm on Friday with “El Grito,” the traditional cry of: ¡Viva México!
But how many understand the actual history of this ritual? It commemorates the manner in which Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, considered the father of Mexico, publicly initiated what became the Mexican independence movement, in 1810. This event sparked Mexico’s War of Independence, which lasted 10 years.
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: ¡Viva México! (“Long Live México!”)
What is not always understood about the start of Mexico’s war of independence is that the uprising unfolded 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, but on September 15, 1810, the conspirators received the bad news: their conspiracy had been found out.
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 and rang the bells, summoning workers from nearby fields. From the pulpit he exhorted his following to take up arms and join him in his fight against the injustices of the Spanish colonial system.
He then delivered the famous cry, which became known as “El Grito de Dolores,” the shout that celebrates Mexico’s Independence to this day.
The Battle of Guanajuato, the first major engagement of the insurgency, occurred 4 days later. After a decade of war, in August of 1821, the Spanish viceroy in Mexico recognized Mexico’s independence by signing the Treaty of Cordoba and, on September 28, an independent Mexico was officially declared.