The most famous festival in Mexico, throughout the country, is El Grito de Independencia (the Cry of Independence), at 11 p.m. on September 15. It moves almost all Mexicans.
This national celebration fills squares and gathers families in front of the television; rivers of tequila flow, and tons of tacos are eaten. In every bar and restaurant across the country, there is a Mexican party going on.
The fact is that on Saturday, September 15, 1810, at 11 p.m., nothing happened. The viceroyalty slept peacefully and, for the most part, had a quiet Sunday, Sep.16th.
There was a group of conspirators in Guanajuato and Querétaro. But the priest of Dolores, Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, did not ring the bell or call “to raise in arms” at 11 at night.
He sensibly called mass at seven or eight because it was Sunday, and many ranchers came from the vicinity to attend the religious service. Once the atrium was complete, the priest asked them to get some sticks, machetes, and whatever they could find. Thus began a revolt that lasted barely ten months and did not spread beyond the triangle formed by Querétaro, Guadalajara, and the outskirts of Mexico City.
The riot leaders had already been arrest- ed a year after, excommunicated, shot, some beheaded, and their heads -especially of Mi- guel Hidalgo- displayed for people to see as an example in iron cages in the colonial city of Guanajuato.
Independence would not come until ten years later, on September 27, 1821, without firing a shot or spilling a drop of blood, by an agreement between the last of New Spain’s Viceroy, Juan O’Donojú, and the heads of the insurgent army, who had also allied themselves through an agreement, a negotiation, not because of the bloody de- feat of one of the parties.
And what about El Grito, the founding fact Mexicans celebrate every year? It is simple: there was no such. Because of this, there is little enthusiasm and various opinions about it. A country that falsifies its birth certificate begins badly, very badly. Where do we get that national holiday, the most important in Mexico? Of two coincidences:
1. Porfirio Díaz’s birthday was in September. For that reason, he gave, on that date, during his long presidency, a tremendous nocturnal reception at the National Palace to the aristocracy and well-known people, the diplomatic corps, high clergy, and ministers. Downstairs, in the Zócalo, a festival was organized with many fireworks and tacos so that everyone could also celebrate their president’s birthday.
2. In 1896, Porfirio Díaz had the old bell from the church of Dolores rang by Miguel Hidalgo in 1810 to call mass on the morning of September 16.
The bell was brought and installed on the central balcony of the National Palace, where it remains to this day.
After the installation was finished on the 14, the party for the presidential birthday ar- rived on the 15, and Díaz, who went out every year to receive the acclaim of his good peo- ple, had the idea of ringing the historic bell, perhaps with the sole intention of indicating that it was there. But Díaz, of course, did not say a word. There was no “grito”. This is how, to this day, Mexicans no longer know pre- cisely if their country’s independence is on September 15, when millions of people light up fireworks in the streets, or on the 16, when the military parade can be watched on TV.