Archived: Mexico’s 200 Years as An Independent Country


On September 15, 1810, New Spain was left behind when Miguel Hildalgo y Costilla, holding an image of the Virgin of Guadalupe, shouted the now famous battle cry for independence from the bell tower of his church in Dolores, Guanajuato in Mexico.

It would take 11 years for the army formed that day to win Mexico’s independence and become its own nation.

Today, when speaking about Mexico — one of Latin America’s most important countries—it should be noted that the country is more than just a long list of deeply imbedded traditions. Mexico’s  bicentanial, celebrating 200 years as an independent country, should include the story of the country’s prolific indigenous history, which is framed in a contrast of flavors, landscapes and scents that stay in the memory of whomever sets foot on her land.

Mexico is many things. It is as a prism through which light enters and seperates in a diverse arrray of colors. In Latin American imagery it is associated with the festiveness of the Mariachi’s cords, the gallant figure of the ‘charro’ (horseman), the spicy flavor of the kitchen, the profound religious faith, but above all, the unusual character trait that causes us to always downplay our adversities with humor, even poking fun at death itself.

At home, we live our Mexican-ness to the fullest in every sense. Every meal must include tortillas and hot peppers and even ‘malinchismo’ (holding foreign things in higher esteem than our national products; the native born Malinche was Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes’ lover) is part of our idiosyncrasy.

But outside our borders, the pride in being Mexican is greater. When you recognize a familiar sounding accent, you immediately ask, “Are you from Mexico, from the land of the Aztecs, tequila and mariachi music?” When you discover the image of the Virgin “Guadalupana” in one of the farthest corners of the continent, you feel proud.

The resources and the immense size of the territory have allowed Mexico to become a major player on the North American continent. But the country’s current situation is increasingly complicated. The growing wave of violence and corruption that are a result of the war against drug traffickers, is one of the reasons why many Mexicans are questioning President Felipe Calderon’s national bicentennial celebrations—costing upwards of $2.9 million and organized by Australian Ric Birch—in the middle of an economic crisis that has left countless Mexicans unemployed.

There is no doubt, however, that despite the problems the Mexican people are encountering daily as they struggle to survive, the bicentennial celebrations will play to that trait that causes us to downplay our misfortunes, and will instead serve to highlight Mexico’s uniqueness, which will overflow onto the streets with a singular cry ¡Viva México!

Elda Arroyo is a Spanish-language journalist living in Mexico.

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