September is the month in where Mexico has one of its most celebrated holidays. Unlike other holidays that are celebrated regionally, Independence Day is celebrated in unison by the entire country.
In every town and city across the country, city workers begin preparing city hall (Palacio Municipal) a week before with numerous red, white and green decorations including the raising of a full-size Mexican flag.
Restaurants across the country also prepare for feasting as the country’s famous and labor intensive Chiles en Nogada is prepared with the utmost care.
September 16 marks Mexico’s independence from Spain. The official holiday is September 16, however, at 11:00 p.m. on the eve of September 15, Mexico’s president rings the bell of the National Palace in Mexico City where he shouts grito de Delores (cries of Dolores) with ¡Viva México! ¡Viva la independencia! before waiving the national flag.
September 16 marks the historical date of the start of a War of Independence, not May 5 (Cinco de Mayo) as thought by many Americans. Cinco de Mayo celebrates Mexico’s 1862 victory over French forces and is also not widely celebrated across the country. Cinco de Mayo is a regional holiday, and is not one recognized here in the state of Quintana Roo.
Mexico’s Independence Day began during the late hours of September 15, 1810 when Padre Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, a Catholic priest in the town of Dolores, Guanajuato, led the rebellion against the Spanish.
He rang the church bells calling his people to mass and exhorted them to rebel against the Spaniards with cries of ¡Viva México! ¡Viva la independencia! (Long live Mexico! Long live our independence!), which became the famous grito de Dolores. It is for this reason the bell at the National Palace in Mexico City is rung at the 11th hour the night before.
Mexico’s Independence Day is an incredible event to celebrate if you’re in the country. In Playa del Carmen, for example, we have an enormous gathering in the city’s center just outside city hall. Food vendors line the streets. National music is played in every corner, live entertainment is abundant and specialized foods can be found at nearly every restaurant.
The two main feature dishes you will find around Mexico during the week of independence are tamales and chiles de nogada.
Tamales were used as portable food for armies, while chiles de nogada is a specialty dish of white sauce, red pomegranate seeds and greenery to make up the country’s colors, making it the perfect food choice in which to celebrate Mexico’s Independence Day.