September 16th, “El Grito”, the Shout or Cry for Independence, is one of the most celebrated national holidays in Mexico. This year, 2016 celebrates the 206th anniversary of the Mexican Revolution. Come join in the fun!
It was 205 years ago on the night of September 15, that Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla began the Mexican revolution that was to eventually free the country from Spanish rule.
Festivities begin in the evening hours of September 15 with a re-enactment of Father Hidalgo's speech by the local authority and the tolling of the bell in most pueblos and often fireworks. Parades and further celebrations continue on Monday the 16th.
The cause of the Mexican Revolution had been festering for more than 100 years. A harsh four class system that separated the population into Indian, Mestizo (mixed), Mexican-born Spaniards and the ruling pure Spanish class. with the wealth, land holdings and power all held by the smallest group of pure Spanish origin.
In the afternoon hours on the 15th of September, 1810, and co-conspirators Ignacio Allende and Juan Aldama heard that a Spanish military had been dispatched to arrest them Late that night, some say around 11PM, they rang the bell of the little church in Dolores and the ten-year revolution began.
Father Hidalgo had been preaching fiery sermons, critical of the oppressive class system and domination of the ruling class by the Spanish. Hidalgo himself was a Mexican-born Spaniard, son of a middle-class property overseer. His actions had come to the notice of both the Spanish seeded government and the Church.
From the steps of the church, Father Hidalgo seemed an unlikely inspiration for a revolution. He spoke to the crowd that gathered and inspired the people to take up what arms they could and resist those sent to arrest him and the others. His exact words were not recorded at the time but the speech inspired the crowd to successfully resist the Spanish column. The essential message of the speech was said to be thus;
"My children: a new dispensation comes to us today. Will you receive it? Will you free yourselves? Will you recover the lands stolen by three hundred years ago from your forefathers by the hated Spaniards? We must act at once… Will you defend your religion and your rights as true patriots? Long live our Lady of Guadalupe! Death to bad government! Death to the gachupines! (Spaniards)"
In the following days, the revolution grew quickly, bring together various factions opposed to the Spanish rule. Hidalgo left Dolores with about 800 men On October 10 his following had grown to about 10,000 as they marched through Celaya to Monte de las Cruces on the way to Mexico City. By then end of the battle of Monte de las Cruces on October 30, 1810, it is estimated that the revolution had gathered as many as 100,000 followers. Poised on the verge of complete victory just outside Mexico City, Hidalgo turns the mob around. It proved to be his greatest tactical mistake. Although no clear reason was ever given, it is believed that Hidalgo feared what is mob might do to the capital city after defeating the Spanish.
The Spanish military was well trained and far better equipped than the forces of the revolution. Within days they reorganized and took the offensive against the poorly trained and ill-equipped rebels.
Hidalgo was supreme commander of the rebel forces, and although a great motivator, made several military blunders to the benefit of the Spanish. The Spanish whittled away at the retreating peasants over the next couple of months until most were killed or disbanded into the hills. Hidalgo himself was captured on March 21, 1811, and executed for treason in July of that year.
On September 16th, 1910 President Porfirio Diaz reenacted the ringing of the actual bell that Hidalgo had used one hundred years before to begin the social revolution that leads to Mexico’s Independence. The actual date of the “El Grito” is said to be the 15th of September but that was already Saint Porfirio Day, which was President Porfirio's birthday. Diaz didn't want to upstage his own birthday with a national holiday. So he made September 16th the celebrated holiday.
It is from that time, that the 16th of September has celebrated as Independence Day. But the Celebration of El Grito, where everyone gathers in the town square zócalo and is celebrated with the President of Mexico ringing of the same bell Hidalgo rang, which is presently at the Government Palace in Mexico City, at 11:00PM on the night of the 15th. This is usually televised worldwide. All of Mexico and its embassy interests worldwide celebrate at the same moment, regardless of time zone. As the president, governor or mayor of your local fiesta reads the Cry for Independence of Hidalgo's, it is traditional to shout the names of those involved in the revolution;
"Viva Hidalgo, Viva Allende, Viva la Corregidora, Viva la Revolucion – Viva Mexico"