September 15-16 is when Mexico celebrates its independence from Spain! It is a large event that is celebrated in almost every corner of the country and is full of pride, joy, food and lots of music. In every municipality, city and state, the current leader is in charge of giving “El Grito,” a battle cry that Father Miguel Hidalgo gave in 1810 to initiate the fight for independence. Me and all the other IFSA students traveled to Chetumal, the capital city of the state of Quintana Roo to celebrate. One of the IFSA student’s family is from Chetumal so she encouraged, planned, and showed us around Chetumal, which is a city much smaller and less “modern” than Mérida. The bus ride to Chetumal was 6 hours long and full of beautiful “selva”(jungle) and mangrove scenery. Arriving at Chetumal made me feel like I was arriving at my parents’ home state of Oaxaca. Life is less rushed in Chetumal, the people live in community, the food is delicious, and the city is definitely less touristy. We encountered many people who reminded us that Chetumal is known for its safety and wished us a pleasant stay. I enjoyed it very much.
On Thursday night, September 15, we got ready and headed down to el Palacio Gubernamental , near el Boulevard Bahía, where the grito was to be given. There were live performances of regional and national music, and dances by local singers and dancers to honor Mexican culture. Then, the respects and honors were paid to the flag by the armed guards. Next, large screens projected the Grito given by current president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador — what I valued most was how he gave an additional grito for indigenous people, for the end of corruption, racism and classism, and for the cultural diversity of Mexico. It was beautiful to see everyone, regardless of their political views, feeling united and so proud and happy to be Mexican. This ceremony is something that doesn’t happen in the United States on Independence Day, where most families celebrate on their own and not as a nation. Afterwards, the state and national anthems were sung (I have been practicing the Mexican national anthem thanks to my parents so I felt proud to sing along), and a firework show was displayed, followed by live music by a group called Calibre 50. The ambiance was magical and ecstatic. I wish my parents would have been able to be there with me to celebrate their nation’s 212 independence anniversary.
The next day, all the schools in the city marched down with the flag guards to el Boulevard. All the children, from kinder to high school and university paid their respects to the flag in a very disciplined march, followed by the national army, marines, local police, and all military groups. The celebration continued, even in the heat, humidity, and rain!
That day we took a day trip to Bacalar, a local town with a beautiful lagoon. The water was shallow, warm, and crystal clear and we had a great time enjoying it. Later that night, we witnessed more Mexican pride at a restaurant playing the Canelo vs GGG boxing match. Canelo won and everyone clapped and cheered ecstatically! The excitement was contagious and I felt very grateful to have lived moments that I’ve only heard about from my family members. Experiencing September, el mes de la patria (nation’s month), has been a once in a lifetime experience and I would highly recommend it for any child of Mexican parents!