Repeat after us: Mexican Independence Day is not on Cinco de Mayo (May 5th).
Although the famous Cinco de Mayo holiday (usually commemorated with copious amounts of tequila) is an important milestone in Mexican history, marking a very significant victory against the French forces, it is on September 16, 1810 that Mexico truly began their journey to independence. On this day in history, Father Miguel Hidalgo proclaimed “El Grito,” or “The Cry of Independence” in a small town named Dolores in Guanajuato, Mexico. Hidalgo’s call to action sparked a national revolution that eventually led to Mexico’s Independence from colonial Spanish rule in 1821. Today, Latinos all across the globe celebrate this heroic cry for freedom with gargantuan fiestas filled with parades, fireworks, and music!
There are four essential rules to celebrating Mexican Independence Day:
- Eat pozole
- Drink tequila (or mezcal)
- Listen to Mariachi music
- Wear Mexico’s national colors (red, white and green)
Although the holiday is officially observed on September 16th, festivities in Mexico actually start the day before. After a half day at work or school, families sprint home to begin preparations for a lavish dinner, complete with numerous, mouthwatering traditional Mexican dishes such as tamales, chiles en nogada (a dish made of poblano chiles stuffed with meat and dried fruit, in Mexico flag colors) — and of course, pozole (a soup made of hominy and pork, topped with crunchy fried corn tortillas).
After dinner, crowds rush to the National Palace, where at 11 p.m., the president of Mexico rings the bell, followed by a reenactment of the famous “El Grito.” At the end of the call, crowds erupt in three, unison shouts of “Viva Mexico!” complete with fireworks being set off in the background, as celebrators begin to march through the streets carrying Mexican flags, blowing whistles and horns. Streets are aligned with hundreds of colorful lights, balloons, streamers, flowers and paper lanterns, all in the Mexican flag colors of red, white and green.
Dancing is an all day must. Crowds move along to the many live mariachi bands that play on the streets, in the parades and all various large gatherings and establishments. While others gear-up in traditional garb to take part in bailes folclóricos or traditional dances.
If you’re not heading south of the border to celebrate Mexican Independence Day this year, but still want to to be a part of the fantastic festivities, you’re in luck! Here are a few places right here in the U.S., where you can still fiesta your heart out:
Phoenix, Arizona: Head to the Fiesta Patrias– Arizona‘s largest Mexican Independence Day celebration. Every year, thousands of people gather in Arizona’s capital to enjoy live music, carnival rides and tons of food– all for free!
Los Angeles, California: Start the morning off with this L.A. parade that has been said to rival the original in Mexico City! Celebrities such as professional boxer Oscar De La Hoya will be among the hundreds of celebrators at the nation’s largest and oldest Hispanic parade.
Houston, Texas: As the saying goes… everything’s bigger in Texas! One of the biggest Mexican Independence Day celebrations in the U.S. is held in Houston. Every year, this Texan city is transformed for Mexican Independence Day celebrations as people travel from all over the country to watch traditional dances, listen to live music and basks in a city that thrives in remembrance.
Las Vegas, Nevada: A mammoth amongst Las Vegas weekend events, if you’re looking for a star-studded, over-the-top fiesta to celebrate Mexican Independence Day, this is where you need to be. Jennifer Lopez, Ricky Martin and Enrique Iglesias are just a few names that will grace the stages at iconic Vegas venues.
Have a fiesta or tradition you’d like to add to the list? Let us know how you’ll be celebrating El Grito this year in the comments below!