The Grito de Dolores (“Shout of Dolores”) was uttered from the small town of Dolores, near Guanajuato in Mexico, on this date in 1810. It is the event that marks the beginning of the Mexican War of Independence. The “grito” was the proclamation of the Mexican War of Independence by Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, a Roman Catholic priest. Since October 1825, the anniversary of the event is celebrated as Mexican Independence Day – NOT cinco de Mayo (northern gringos take note).
Hidalgo and several criollos were involved in a planned revolt against the Spanish colonial government, when several plotters were killed. Fearing his arrest, Hidalgo commanded his brother Mauricio, as well as Ignacio Allende and Mariano Abasolo to go with a number of other armed men to make the sheriff release the pro-independence inmates there on the night of September the 15. They managed to set eighty free. Around 6:00 am on September 16, 1810, Hidalgo ordered the church bells to be rung and gathered his congregation. Flanked by Allende and Juan Aldama, he addressed the people in front of his church, encouraging them to revolt.
The Siege of Guanajuato, the first major engagement of the insurgency, occurred 4 days later. Mexico’s independence would not be effectively declared from Spain in the Declaration of Independence of the Mexican Empire until September 28, 1821, after a decade of war.
There is no scholarly consensus as to what exactly Hidalgo said at the time, as the book The Course of Mexican History states “The exact words of this most famous of all Mexican speeches are not known, or, rather, they are reproduced in almost as many variations as there are historians to reproduce them.”
The book goes on to claim that “the essential spirit of the message is… ‘My children: a new dispensation comes to us today. Will you receive it? Will you free yourselves? Will you recover the lands stolen three hundred years ago from your forefathers by the hated Spaniards? We must act at once… Will you defend your religion and your rights as true patriots? Long live Our Lady of Guadalupe! Death to bad government! Death to the gachupines!'”
By contrast, William F. Cloud divides the sentiments above between both Hidalgo and the crowd… “He [Hidalgo] told them that the time for action on their part had now come. When he asked, ‘Will you be slaves of Napoleon or will you as patriots defend your religion, your hearths and your rights?’ there was a unanimous cry, ‘We will defend to the utmost! Long live religion, long live our most holy mother of Guadalupe! Long live America! Death to bad government, and death to the Gachupines!'”
Hidalgo’s “grito” did not condemn the notion of monarchy or criticize the current social order in detail, but his opposition to the events in Spain and the current viceregal government was clearly expressed in his reference to bad government. The grito also emphasized loyalty to the Catholic religion, a sentiment with which both Creoles and Peninsulares (native Spaniards) could sympathize; however, the strong anti-Spanish cry of “Death to the Gachupines” (Gachupines was a nickname given to Peninsulares) probably had caused horror among Mexico’s elite.
This event has since assumed an almost mythic status. Since the late 20th century, Hidalgo y Costilla’s “cry of independence” has become emblematic of Mexican independence.
Each year on the night of September 15th, at around eleven in the evening, the President of Mexico rings the bell of the National Palace in Mexico City. After the ringing of the bell, he repeats a shout of patriotism (Grito Mexicano) based upon the “Grito de Dolores”, with the names of the important heroes of the Mexican War of Independence who were there on that historic moment, and ending with the threefold shout of ¡Viva México! from the balcony of the palace to the assembled crowd in the Plaza de la Constitución, or Zócalo, one of the largest public plazas in the world. After the shouting, he rings the bell again and waves the Flag of Mexico to the applause of the crowd, and is followed by the playing and mass singing of the Himno Nacional Mexicano, the national anthem, with a military band from the Mexican Armed Forces playing. This event draws up to half a million spectators from all over Mexico and tourists worldwide. On the morning of September 16, or Independence Day, the national military parade (the September 16 military parade) in honor of the holiday starts in the Zócalo and its outskirts, passes the Hidalgo Memorial and ends on the Paseo de la Reforma, Mexico City’s main boulevard, passing the El Ángel memorial column and other places along the way.
A similar celebration occurs in cities and towns all over Mexico, and in Mexican embassies and consulates worldwide on the 15th or the 16th. The mayor (or governor, in the case of state capitals and ambassadors or consuls in the case of overseas celebrations), rings a bell and gives the traditional words, with the names of Mexican independence heroes included, ending with the threefold shout of Viva Mexico!, the bell ringing for the second time, the waving of the Mexican flag and the mass singing of the National Anthem by everyone in attendance. There are also celebrations in schools as well all over the country. In the 19th century, it became common practice for Mexican presidents in their final year in office to re-enact the Grito in Dolores Hidalgo, rather than in the National Palace. President Calderón officiated at the Grito in Dolores Hidalgo as part of the bicentennial celebrations in 2010 on the 16th of September, even though he had to do this first, to launch the national bicentennial celebrations, in the National Palace balcony on the night of the 15th. As a result, the 2012 commemoration, his last as President, was held in the National Palace balcony instead, thus becoming the third President breaking the traditional practice.
The following day, September 16 is Independence Day in Mexico and is considered a patriotic holiday, or fiesta patria. This day is marked by parades, patriotic programs, drum and bugle and marching band competitions, and special programs on the national and local media outlets, even concerts.
This is the version often recited by the President of Mexico in the national commemorative activity in the National Palace or at the church in Dolores Hidalgo. For each line beginning “”¡Viva(n)!”” recited by the president, the crowd respond with “¡Viva(n)!”. Local leaders can adapt this to their respective circumstances from the state to the municipal or city level, and can sometimes reverse the order while retaining the threefold Viva Mexico cry at the end.
¡Vivan los héroes que nos dieron patria!
¡Viva Josefa Ortíz de Dominguez!
¡Vivan Aldama y Matamoros!
¡Viva la Independencia Nacional!
¡Viva México! ¡Viva México! ¡Viva México!
It did not take too much thinking to decide that a dish made with mole poblano was the best choice to celebrate the day. Mole poblano is the best known of all mole varieties and has been ranked as number one of “typical” Mexican dishes. It has also been called the “national dish” of Mexico. The state of Puebla is usually considered the birthplace of mole poblano. Mole poblano contains about 20 ingredients, including several kinds of chile peppers and chocolate, which works to counteract the heat of the chile peppers, but the chocolate does not dominate. It helps give the sauce its dark color, but this is also provided by the mulato peppers. This sauce is most often served over turkey at weddings, birthdays and baptisms, or at Christmas, but you can use it with a host of other things from chicken to enchiladas.
I just love this video because it reeks of old Mexico – the gorgeous kitchen, cooking over wood coals, the skillful use of the metate . . . perfect !! If you don’t speak Spanish you’re a little handicapped, but you should get the gist. The visuals tell most of the story. Otherwise there are plenty of recipes in English online. But, this one is special to me.