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Published: September 16th 2011
Tomorrow, September 16th is officially Independence Day in Mexico; however, you got to start early!
Let me give the background story, Nanci style. In 1810, a priest named Miguel Hidalgo was unhappy with colonial Mexican society; in particular, how it was determined by skin color, parentage and birthplace. At the top of the tree were the Spanish-born colonists, followed by criollos (most of whom were extremely wealthy), the mestizos (people of mixed ancestry), and lastly the indigenous people and African slaves. The criollos started to rebel against the Spanish rule and Padre Miguel Hidalgo gave his ‘Grito de Indepencia’, or shout for independence. When Hidalgo, Allende, Aldama and Jimenez were fighting in Guanajuato, the city decided to put the colonists and the criollos in the Alhondiga, where they’d be safe. They were wrong. A Mexican miner affectionately nicknamed Pipila (because he walked like a turkey) tied a massive stone to his back to protect himself from guns and arrows and torched the gates of the Alhondiga. They then broke in to the Alhondiga, killing everyone.
They fought for almost a year, when Hildago was captured by the Spaniards and shot by the firing squad. His head was returned to
Guanajuato, where it hung in a cage for the next 10 years on an outer corner of the Alhondiga de Granitas, along with the heads of fellow independence leaders Allende, Aldama and Jimenez. Instead of intimidating the people, it kept the memory and goal fresh in everyone’s mind.
Okay, now present time. When we walked to the Alhondiga, we didn’t know what to expect. After we got “searched” by the police (I didn’t get searched; David got searched three times!), we walked to the street with the buzz of excitement. There were several hundred people there and it quickly grew into the thousands. There were bands playing, people dancing, kids spraying everyone with shaving cream; all under a huge Mexican flag. All the people knew every song the mariachi band played! Suddenly, on the side of the crowd ran “Pipila”, complete with the stone one his back and torch in hand, and several others, toward the Alhondiga. I couldn’t see him after that. Up by the Alhondiga there was a huge silver bell. According to the “rules”, after someone rings the bell, everyone gives the El Grito, or shout. At about quarter to 11 the band started to play
the Mexican national anthem, to which everyone sang. Everyone started cheering, yelling and clapping. Someone rang the bell, but I couldn’t hear it over the cacophony of humanity. It was total insanity and chaos and I wouldn’t have missed it!
This morning we almost overslept and missed the parade. We got there just in time to see about 3 school groups and two Boys Scouts marching up the street. And I do not use the word “march” lightly! They were very solemn – no laughing or talking – hands down at their sides and they were literally marching in step! Quite the surreal Independence Day, Guanajuato style!
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