Celebrating Mexico's Independence

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Cinco de Mayo gets all the press.  Much guacamole and tequila is consumed in celebration - at least  in the US, so based on this hype it was my assumption that Cinco de Mayo was Mexico's Independence Day. 

Spoiler Alert!

Cinco de Mayo commemorates the Mexican victory over the French in the Battle of Puebla in 1862, and not Mexico's independence. It wasn't until I spent time working in Mexico City that I understood that unless you are in Puebla, Cinco de Mayo isn't a big deal.  It's not a public holiday  in Mexico and no one is celebrating with pinatas.

Independence Day however, which is celebrated on September 16, is a big deal.

16 de Septiembre in Mexico

Mexican independence wasn't won from Spain until 1821, but it was the speech - El Grito de Dolores  (Cry of Dolores) - made by Father Miguel Hidalgo on September 16, 1810 that solidified the nation against Spanish rule.

Mexico City, Independence Day, September 16, Avenida 16 de SeptiembreOn the Avenue of September 16th in Mexico City's historic centre

On the Eve of Independence

Every year on the eve of Independence the current Mexican president reenacts Hidalgo's famous speech in Zocalo front of thousands of specatators, then rings the  same bell that united the Mexican people. Dia del independcia Mexico, Angel Reforma, Mexico City AngelAngel of Independence on Paseo de la Reforma, Mexico CityAfterwards, the fireworks and parties begin. Many throughfares  are closed to traffic to allow parties to flow out onto the streets.

I was staying close to the Angel of Independence where evening festivities included live bands and many vendors selling food, crafts, and Independence Day themed paraphenalia including flags, face paint and cascarones.

Mexico Independence Day, Cascarones and face paintReady for the night's celebrations - Cascarones and facepaintLater in the night cascarones, silly string and shaving cream are flying through the crowd.

The Parade

The highlight of September 16th is the parade.  People begin lining the sides of the sides of the streets early in the morning to ensure a good view. 

Mexico Independence Day, Waiting for parade, Mexico City

Often, as it did on the day we were there, it will rain but it didn't dampen the spirit of the crowds that continued to gather.

Mexican Air Force, Independence Day Mexico, September 16

The parade is kicked off by the Air Force doing a fly by of the Plaza de la Constitucion.

Independence Day Mexico Parade, Jets, Mexico City, September 16

For the most part, the parade is a military show, with some Mexican cultural elements mixed into the nearly 3 hour affair. 

Here are some of the highlights.

Mexico Military, Independence Day Parade Mexico, September 16

military school Mexico, Independence Day Parade, September 16

Mexico military, Independence Day Parade Mexico, September 16

Mexico military, Independence Day Mexico, September 16

You may have noticed a large number of people wearing green, white and red caps in the crowd.  All along the parade route, volunteers were hannding them out .  These girls were nice enough to pose for a picture.

Mexico City, Independence Day Hats, Girls from Mexico City, September 16Local volunteers handing out hats to the crowd

The Tastes of Mexico

The food in Mexico is so much more than tacos and guacamole. Here's what we recommend for celebrating Mexico's Independence Day.

Chile en Nogado

Restaurants all over the country prepare chile en nogada - a traditional dish of poblano pepper stuffed with spiced beef decorated to look like the Mexican flag, complete with pomegranate seeds.  It's delicious and beautiful!

Chile en Nogada, Dia del Independencia, Independence Day Mexico, 16 de Septiembre

Chile en Nogada  decorated as the Mexican Flag

Street Vendors

They are everywhere and are a good option if you're looking for something quick and cheap.  Not all of them are properly registered with the city, so when the police come through to patrol, all it takes is a whistle from the lookout and the vendors will pack up and be on their way.  

Zocalo, Mexico food, street vendor, Tlayudas Tlayudas from a street vendor in CentroOut of curiousity I tried a Tlayuda.  It was crispy and tasty as adverstised. I got mine just minutes before we heard the telltale whistle and then they were gone.

Mexico Has a Sweet Tooth

Pastries are a must for the annual celebration and there's no better place to find your favourites than Pasteleria Ideal. This bakery has been creating its delicious cakes and pastries in Mexico City since opening its doors in 1927 Ideal Pasteleria Cake, Mexico Independence Day, September 16Viva Mexico!The shelves of the bakery are continually stocked throughout the day as the freshly baked goods are brought in from the kitchen. The bakery smells as good as its pastries taste! All you need to get started is a tray and a pair of tongs.

Pasteleria Ideal , Indepedence Day Mexico, September 16Pasteleria Ideal

Good to Know

If you are plannning on visiting Mexico mid September and want to see Zócalo, in the historic centre of Mexico City,  going on September 15 or 16 isn't your best choice. Although the feeling is festive, the area is very crowded making a leisurely visit and decent photo ops nearly impossible.

Mexico Fauxhawk and moutache, Independence Day Mexico, September 16Mexican Flag Fauxhawk and moustache Also you must wait in long lines to be thoroughly searched by security before entering the perimeter of the Plaza de la Constitucion.  We skipped the lines and saw the plaza another day.

Mexico City, Zocalo, Prohibido Introducir, security perimeterSecurity perimeter around Plaza de la Constitucion

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