Sunday, November 6, 2011

Will You Free Yourselves?

201 years later, immortal words still carry a message for every Mexican.

By Edward V. Byrne for The Yucatan Times
September 15, 2011

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Tonight Mexico will celebrate its freedom by reenacting El Grito de la Independencia, the infamous and historic Cry of Independence. The event marks the beginning of the Mexican War of Independence, and opens the most important national holiday in the country. The Grito was the official proclamation of the war by Miguel Hidalgo, a Roman Catholic priest. It occurred at Dolores, near Guanajuato, early on the morning of September 16, 1810, and is one of the most famous rallying cries in history.

Around 6:00 a.m. that day, Hidalgo ordered church bells rung and gathered his people. He addressed the humble, impoverished parishoners, encouraging them to revolt. The Battle of Guanajuato, the first major engagement of the insurgency, was fought four days later. But Mexico did not win its independence from Spain until much later, on September 27, 1821, after a decade of brutal war in which thousands sacrificed their lives.

The Grito has iconic if not mythical status. It is the quintessence of the Mexican spirit of independence. Mexicans begin their formal commemoration on the night of September 15, at 11:00 p.m., when the President rings the bell of independence from the balcony of the National Palace in Mexico City. He then repeats a cry of patriotism using the names of the heroes of the War of Independence, and ending with Viva Mexico! thrice repeated. A huge crowd is assembled in the Plaza de la Constitución, or Zócalo, one of the largest public plazas in the world. To their cheers and applause he rings the bell again and waves the Bandera (flag), after which the Himno Nacional Mexicano is sung. The event draws participants and spectators from all over Mexico and indeed, every corner of the world. A similar celebration occurs in cities and towns throughout the country, at the same hour.

Hidalgo's exact words to his brave but frightened congregation that misty morning so long ago are lost to history, but one source claims he simply said, "Will you free yourselves?"

There is nothing so powerful in all the world as an idea whose time has come –
Victor Hugo.

© Edward V. Byrne 2011.  This article may be briefly quoted but not reproduced in full without express permission of the author.

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