A simple priest walked into his parish church and changed the history of Mexico 219 years ago.
On September 16, 1810 Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, a Catholic priest, launched the Mexican War of Independence from Spain with the issuing of his Grito de Dolores, or “Cry of Delores.”
The revolution began at Parish Church of Our Lady of Sorrows church in Dolores Hidalgo, Mexico, about 30 miles from San Miguel de Allende.
After eleven years of fighting and resistance Spanish Viceroy Juan de O’Donoju signed the Treaty of Cordoba, approving a plan to make Mexico an independent constitutional monarchy.
“Independence commemorates the beginning [of the struggle]” explains Elena Albarran, associate professor of history and global and intercultural studies at Miami University in Ohio. “In this case, you celebrate the moment of insurgency, the possibility, and the hope.”
Now, you ask, why do people in the United States celebrate Cinco de Mayo (May 5) as Mexican independence?
And the answer seems to be Chicano pride and beer sales.
Cinco de Mayo commemorates the Mexican army’s unlikely victory over the French forces of Napoleon III on May 5, 1862, at the Battle of Puebla. Mexico had trouble paying back war debts to European countries, and France had come to Mexico to collect that debt, and their superior forces were defeated.
As the Tampa Bay Times’ David Lee McMullen explains,Cinco de Mayo’s modern roots are much more American than most people think:
“In the 1960s, Mexican-Americans began to use the day to celebrate their culture. Over the years it has evolved into a major reason to party. Perhaps that was the influence of the beer promoters. Regardless, Cinco de Mayo offers us a grand opportunity to appreciate our neighbors to the south.”
As Robert Montenegro wrote in 2015, “…if we trackthe evolution of Cinco de Mayo, we see it as: first, an obscure holiday about an obscure battle; second, a marketingtool to promote Chicano pride; and third, a marketing tool to promote the copious intake of alcoholic beverages. Cinco de Mayo is an Independence Day only if the entity celebrants seek separation from is their own stone sobriety.”
However, Mexicans know when their independence was initiated and won, and their country-wide celebrations on September 16 are marked with fireworks, Mexican flags, parades, dances, food, and music.
It is difficult not to be caught up in the festivities, no matter where in Mexico you happen to be on September 16. Shops close, traffic stalls, music and firecrackers reverberate, parades clog streets in every part of the city, and loud shouts of ‘Viva Mexico’ ring throughout Mexico.