Sept. 16 is the 206th anniversary of Mexican Independence. Even non-Mexicans who know nothing of Mexico’s history will have been hard pushed not to notice something was brewing, considering the mountains of flags and sombreros sold on every street corner for the last few weeks in Mexico City.
If you’ve heard canons firing from Chapultepec and didn’t realize they were in honor of the Niños Heroes, have no fear. The News has compiled a brief history to inform you about this weekend’s significance.
El Día de los Niños Héroes (Children Heroes Day) falls on Sept. 13. This day commemorates the six teenage military cadets who bravely fought and died, defending Chapultepec Castle in the Battle of Chapultepec against the United States in 1847. The story goes that one of the young cadets, Juan Escutia, wrapped the Mexican flag around his body and leapt from the castle and to his death, to ensure that the flag would not fall into the hands of the enemy. Multiple murals and paintings honor the Niños Heroes, including the large monument in Chapultepec, built in 1952. During the day, the canons in Chapultepec Castle are fired and the military march in the park.
Despite Independence Day officially being Sept. 16, the party begins the night before as Mexicans mark the starting point in the fight for independence, through the Grito de Dolores (Cry of Dolores). This near mythic mark in Mexican history occurred in the small town of Dolores, near Guanajuato. The cry, sent forth by the statesman of Mexican history, Miguel Hidalgo, began the uprising against Spanish colonial rule and set in motion the coming of self-rule for Mexico.
To remember the importance of this event, over half a million people gather in front of the national palace at the Zócalo in Mexico City, to watch the president recall Hidalgo’s words and shout the names of the important figures in the fight for Mexican independence. The president also shouts “¡Viva México!” three times, waves the Mexican flag and joins the thronging crowd to sing the national anthem.
The Grito can also be used as a barometer for the president’s popularity, with the country’s press often commenting on a president’s performance. One particular example was Ernesto Zedillo’s first Grito ceremony, that caught particular scorn from press for being too low-key and brief, and lacking a patriotic zeal.
Here’s a link to see the performances of past presidents in the Grito ceremony. Hold onto your hats.
The military parade follows this night of festivities, taking place on the morning of Sept. 16, again in the Zócalo. This is a long parade that goes from Chapultepec to the Zócalo. All the might of the Mexican military will be on display, shiny buttons and awkward looking caps included. Roads are blocked for the parade, so be sure to check alternative routes if you’re planning on heading somewhere Friday.
Conozca el recorrido del desfile este 16 de Septiembre, aquí #AlternativaVial pic.twitter.com/xDF89VPCpd
— OVIALCDMX (@OVIALCDMX) September 15, 2016