Sat | Sep 19, 2020

Juan González Mijares | The Independence of Mexico and ‘El Grito’

Published:Sunday | September 13, 2020 | 12:05 AM

MAIN PHOTO: Revellers celebrate as fireworks explode over the Metropolitan Cathedral after President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador gave the annual independence shout from the balcony of the National Palace to kick off Independence Day celebrations in Mexico
MAIN PHOTO: Revellers celebrate as fireworks explode over the Metropolitan Cathedral after President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador gave the annual independence shout from the balcony of the National Palace to kick off Independence Day celebrations in Mexico City, late Sunday, September 15, 2019.

The Angel of Independence, Mexico City.
The Angel of Independence, Mexico City.
Juan González Mijares, ambassador of Mexico to Jamaica.
Juan González Mijares, ambassador of Mexico to Jamaica.
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The movement for the independence of Mexico from Spain began on September 16, 1810. In the early morning of that day, the cleric Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla called upon his parishioners to a mass rising to overthrow a “bad government”. This exhortation is officially known as the “Cry of Dolores” and is considered the birth of the nation, a high point in Mexican history that is commemorated every September 16 in every city of Mexico and its embassies abroad.

The actual process of Independence was not to be achieved until 1821 after several battles and the signing of the Treaty of Córdoba whereby Mexico ended three centuries of Spanish domination. Mexico briefly became an empire of almost five million square kilometres and a federal republic in 1824. Thus started a very conflictive time in Mexican history and the struggle to forge a nation in a century of interventions where half the territory (2.4 million square kilometres) were lost in the Mexican-American War (1846-1848), followed by the French Intervention (1861- 1867) and the Mexican Revolution (1910-1924).

Before the arrival of the Spaniards, the Mexican territory, as well as Jamaica, at the end of the 15th century, was inhabited by several indigenous groups. Mexico was the cradle of important civilizations such as the Olmec, Teotihuacan, Mayan, Toltec, and Aztec (the correct name of the latter is Mexica, thus the demonym Mexicans) civilizations.

The Conquest of Mexico took place in 1521 when the Spanish conquerors, in alliance with indigenous rivals, took Tenochtitlan (Mexico City) and ended the Aztec empire. From this moment until 1655, Jamaica and Mexico shared the same history as a colonies of the Spanish Crown.

RELIGIOUS AND CULTURAL CONQUEST

During colonial times, Mexico was called New Spain. The conquest was not only economic-military, but religious and cultural: the Catholic religion and the Spanish language became the dominant features of a society made up of diverse indigenous populations mainly subjugated into myriad of slavery and feudal regimes. In the year 1800, the population in New Spain was 6.2 million: Creoles were 16 per cent, Mestizos - 20 per cent, Indigenous – 60 per cent, and Africans four per cent. The main economic activity was gold and silver mining.

When Napoleon from France occupied Spain in 1808, one of the Creoles groups (supported by the Mestizos) in New Spain, influenced by the ideas of liberty, equality, and fraternity from the French Revolution and the independence of the 13 colonies in North America, began secret meetings to conspire against the Spanish Crown.

The conspiracy was discovered, and on September 16, 1810, Miguel Hidalgo, the “Father of Independence”, made the “Cry of Dolores”, signalling the beginning of the Independence of Mexico. Hidalgo’s followers had swelled to about 100,000 people from all social groups – Creoles, Mestizos, Indigenous, and Afro descendants – who had fought against the Spanish army for more than 10 years. Almost all the rebel leaders were killed. The war of Independence made Mexico one of the first countries to declare the abolishment of slavery in the American continent.

The Ceremony of “Grito (the Cry) de Independencia”

To commemorate the heroic feat of the beginning of Independence, each year, on the night of September 15, the Mexican political authorities from the presidential palace in “El Zócalo”, the main square of Mexico City, to every city, township, and embassy all over the world, perform a representation of the “Cry of Dolores”.

This ceremony brings together Mexican families and hundreds or thousands of people in public squares all over the country to shout “ ¡Viva los héroes que nos dieron patria!” (Long live the heroes who gave us a homeland! “) and then the name of every hero, ¡Viva Hidalgo! is shouted with a corresponding ¡ Viva! from the square. And everything finishes with a Mexican fiesta with mariachis and popular Mexican food and tequila.

The National Day of Mexico and the “Grito” ceremony is traditionally celebrated in Kingston on September 15 ; however, due to the global coronavirus pandemic and its resulting effects, it will not be possible to have it this year.

The Mexican Embassy in Jamaica is working on a video to commemorate the 210th anniversary of the Independence of Mexico, which will be streamed on the embassy’s social media platforms – Instagram:embamex_jamaica; Twitter: embamex.jam and Facebook: Embassy of Mexico to Jamaica on Tuesday, September 15, at 7 p.m. Although it will be produced in Spanish, we invite you to share with us a moment of our history and a thought about Mexico and its people in these difficult times. ¡Viva Mexico!

- Juan González Mijares is ambassador of Mexico to Jamaica. Send feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.