Mexico's Huge Bi-Centennial Fiesta
"Vamos a Coger Gringos...er... Gachupines!"
Viva Mexico: Felicidades Amigos!!
Maybe this should be called some other name, as two hundred years of this nation’s colourful history has been changed by two momentous events being celebrated this 16th of September.
This date, or course, is remembered every year for the “Grito of Dolores,” the shout or cry that started the ball rolling for the ouster of the Spanish and put the country on the road to Independence. (info follows) And this year - 2010 - means the magic 200 years has been reached.
Also this time, celebrating in the 21st Millennium, means the Centennial of the dying embers of the Porfirio Diaz dictatorship, as Emiliano Zapata galvanized the peasants in Morelos and Pasqual Orozco, along with a practicing cattle thief named Dolores Arango - better known as Pancho Villa, organized the workers from the north to defeat government troops in Chihuahua and other garrisons all the way to the US border.
These Centennial celebrations of 100 years ago were dampened more than a little as Porfirio Diaz, refusing to give up power, announced he would serve for another, seventh, term after jailing the people’s candidate, Madero, causing him to flee to the United States upon his release after the rigged election, where he concocted the Plan de Ayala. The Revolution finally bore fruit in May of 1911, rather than 1910, although the roots were well in place by the latter date and it was only a matter of time. Diaz resigned and was put on a boat to France with his wife in May: he was to enjoy just three years in Paris before expiring and saying - it has been reported (on his death-bed after being told of the unrest and bloodshed still wrecking havoc in Mexico), “You see, I know my Mexico.” He did, and he had caused most of her pain for 50 years.
The Grito de Dolores
. Two hundred years ago, the ruling Spanish were a small minority in Mexico, an oligarchy hated by just about everyone else: the Creoles, the pure-blooded Indians and the Mestizos (mixed blood).
Many “secret” societies had evolved over the preceding years with the main topic of discussion - how to rid the nation of the Spanish yolk. The most active group was led by a certain Captain Allende and his meetings and store of banned books were attended and pursued by a priest, Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costillo, a humble man who was to be perhaps the greatest hero in the county’s history.
Assigned to an impoverished parish in the tiny hamlet of Dolores, he worked tirelessly to improve the lot of his Indian parishioners, even planting vineyards in direct defiance of Spanish law, (the reason the wine industry in Mexico is still in its infancy today, despite many areas having ideal conditions for production).
He taught the Indians how to tan hides to make fine leather and began cottage industries for tile and porcelain (the area is still well known for all these goods today). Hidalgo was a self-taught musician and he also started an orchestra that played at all the fiestas (Mexicans need little excuse to start a fiesta and have many official and informal every year).
When the priest joined Allende’s society, he was already 57 years of age and habitually wore an outfit that must have looked something like Eastwood’s in some of his spaghetti westerns: a long black frock coat, knee breeches with long black stockings and a broad-brimmed black sombrero. He was ready to say to the Spaniards a-la-Clint, “Cummon, punks, make my day!”
Escaping Spanish soldiers ready to arrest him, Hidalgo famously said, “Caballeros, somos perdidos, no hay mas recurso que ir a coger gachupines.” (Gentlemen, we are lost, there is no alternative left to us than to go and catch ’gachupines,” slang name for the hated Spanish overlords).
Hidalgo and his determined band beat down Spanish resistance in the area and imprisoned their captives in the town jail (after releasing the Indian prisoners).
Bells awoke the townspeople and they all congregated into the tiny church to hear the news and the now famous “Cry,” or “Grito de Dolores.”
“Mexicanos, Viva Mexico,” Hidalgo cried from the pulpit, the first words of a longer speech, and signing into history the words that are repeated by each succeeding president on September 16th ever since, from the balcony of the Presidential Palace in Mexico City’s huge Zocolo (square).
Noble as were the fine words and the 6 months of fighting by Hidalgo and his growing hordes, Independence was not won for quite some years and Hidalgo was executed 6 months later after some disastrous failures of judgement, the most glaring was his snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, when he refused to march into Mexico City after the defenders were ready to surrender.
But this simple priest, champion of the underdog, has a special place in Mexican’s hearts and he will never be forgotten, especially on this day, September 16th 2010.
The Spanish were disgusting, arrogant, greedy and swinish rulers for more than 300 years in Mexico. They are not well liked, even today, and you will find no statue anywhere of Hernan Cortez, the Conqueror of Mexico in the 16th Century. Some Spaniards have complained about this, Mexicans going along with this can be likened to the British clamouring for a statue of Hitler in Trafalgar Square. And Adolf didn’t even win!
The Spanish contributed little, except their language, some fine colonial architecture and certain foods and music. For their part, many modern Spaniards look down on Mexicans as “poor cousins” and frequently denigrate them and their nation. I must admit to certain prejudice, having lived in both countries…would tacos and tequila give you a clue to my preference?