If you happen to be in Cabo, or anywhere in Mexico for that matter, during September, you will notice a lot of flags and VIVA MEXICO signs everywhere. That’s because September is when Mexico celebrates its independence and, as most of the world know, Mexicans love a good party. Therefore, it makes perfect sense that, when it comes to celebrating the country’s independence, a month-long celebration is just about right. Much better than just a single day, like for Cinco de Mayo, which, by the way, is not Mexican Independence Day, but we’ll talk about Cinco de Mayo at some other date, for now let’s get back to Mexico’s celebration of its independence.
First a Little History
As just about every other country in the continent, Mexico was a colony for more than three centuries. Until, back in 1810 a group of Mexicans, mind you at the time they weren’t Mexican yet, but all were people born in the colony, which at the time was named New Spain, decided that they were ready to claim their independence from the Spanish crown. The reasons were similar to those that sparked the war for independence from the British crown in the U.S.; high taxes, trade restrictions and social rules that favored certain groups, etc. And so, it came to be that on the early hours of September 16, 1810, a catholic priest named, Miguel Hidalgo who served in the Parish of Dolores, a small town not too far from Mexico City, rang the church bell and called a small group of people to rebel against the Spanish control. The events of that early morning call to arms are surrounded by tales of mythical proportion, that have been reenacted in Mexican movies and even soap-operas many times. Whatever the actual call was, that was the moment that marked the beginning of Mexico’s war for independence. A war that lasted 11 years.
It’s a Tradition and a Big Fiesta
While September 16, is the official holiday, the celebration begins on September 15, interestingly enough, it was Mexico’s President Porfirio Díaz who started the tradition to extend the celebration of Mexico’s independence to two days, simply because his birthday was on the 15th, and he probably figured a two-day party is always better. And ever since the early 1900’s every city and town in Mexico celebrates “El Grito” which is the remembrance of the call to arms issued by Hidalgo, on the night of the 15th of September. And so, every year around 11pm on September 15th, every head of government, from the President in Mexico City to the Mayor of the smallest town in the country, reenacts the event that took place in the early morning of September 16, 1810.
The celebration includes, the ringing of the town’s bell, which is usually in the government’s seat, and then the “Grito” which is a call to honor Mexico and the heroes who fought for its independence. The traditional “Grito” always ends with a resounding VIVA MEXICO! If you happen to be in Mexico or in a place where there is a large Mexican community, you will be able to experience this tradition at a “Noche Mexicana”, a Mexican Night, with lots of traditional Mexican Food from tacos and tostadas to tamales and pozole, with plenty of tequila, mezcal, and fruit flavored water and of course, no Mexican party is complete without traditional music and folkloric dances. Some Noches Mexicanas even include their own version of “El Grito” complete with bell ringing and flag waving, followed by a fireworks display. In Los Cabos most hotels offer a Noche Mexicana and several restaurants do too.
How to Have Your Own Noche Mexicana
Let’s talk about the elephant in the room, how to celebrate Mexico’s Independence without being in a huge gathering? Easy! Have your very own Mexican Night at home.
The first thing you will need is a Mexican Flag and September is definitely the best time to get one, because you are bound to find vendors with all size Mexican flags and flag related items in many spots around town. Some of the most popular places to find them in Los Cabos are, the main square in San José del Cabo and along Morelos Avenue, close to Lazaro Cárdenas in Cabo San Lucas. You can even get them at the major grocery stores.
Once you have the flag, the next thing is getting some green, white and red decorations. Again, these are easily found all over the downtown areas of San José del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas.
The menu can be an assortment of your favorite Mexican foods. Anything goes; tacos, quesadillas, tamales, and of course you need to have some Mexican rice and refried beans as side dishes, save the salads for another day. Mexican Night is all about festive food, so make sure to include a nice selection of traditional Mexican desserts like; churros, flan, rice pudding and Tres Leches cake – do not despair, all these desserts can be bought ready to eat from any local bakery and even the main grocery stores carry delicious options.
Set the mood with some traditional Mexican Music. Choose some good Mariachi music. Some of the all-time favorite Mexican singers are Vicente Fernandez, Luis Miguel and Alejandro Fernandez all of them have mariachi music albums that you can find in any of the music streaming platforms and they will get everybody in a singing and dancing mood. Of course, you will sound even better if you sing a Mexican song after having a nice Margarita… OK maybe you won’t sound better, but you will think you do.
And speaking of margaritas… while tequila is the most iconic Mexican drink, mezcal has become a favorite of many in the past few years. Which one do you prefer? Either one is a good base for a variety of very Mexican drinks. Now, if you want to give a Cabo twist to a traditional margarita, all you have to do is use Damiana liqueur instead of Cointreau and your will have a Caborita. And what can be better than a drink that embodies Mexico a Los Cabos all in one sip?
Tequila or Mezcal?
If you’re confused about the differences between tequila and mezcal, here’s a quick guide:
Tequila is a double distilled spirit that has to be made of 100% Blue Agave and most tequila is distilled in the town of Tequila. Tequila has a denomination of origin, much like Champagne.
Mezcal on the other hand, is a single distilled spirit that can be produced from 12 different kinds of agave, the most common of them is Espadín. Also, while mezcal is a traditional drink from the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca, Mezcal can be produced in different states, nine to be precise, in order to still be considered Mezcal.
Tequila gets its flavor from the baking of the heart of the blue agaves in stone ovens, while to prepare Mezcal the hearts of the agaves are baked with wood in pits on the ground, which is what gives Mezcal its characteristic smokey flavor, while tequila has crisp and sometimes even slightly sweet notes.
Both spirits are the most representative of Mexico as they have been around since before Mexico became an independent country. Therefore, for an authentic Mexican Fiesta, you can choose either or, why not have them both? Whatever your choice, just remember to drink responsibly and always say: “SALUD!” as you raise your glass.
And the Party Continues
September 16, which is the official date for the commemoration of Mexico’s independence is an official holiday. This means that banks and schools stay closed. But besides that, it is a day of continued celebration. Most cities and towns have Parades to mark the beginning of the movement for Mexico’s independence. The parades usually include school children, folkloric dancers, and Charros on horseback. A bit of everything that represents Mexico’s identity as a colorful and rich mix of cultures and ways of life. In Los Cabos there is usually a parade in San Jose del Cabo and another in Cabo San Lucas.
A Place that is as Unlikely as it is Magical
Mexican historian, Carlos Navarrate, said that September 16 celebrated the moment of insurgency, the hope of a group of people to build a nation. The road to independence was long, 11 years, and after that Mexico has continued to evolve decade after decade for the last 200 years and become a true kaleidoscope of colors, flavors, and traditions that find sense in the absurd and, somehow, always manage to face the daily challenges of life with a smile and quick wit. A country where the possibilities are as endless as the almost surreal essence of its origins. The unlikely result of the melding of Pre-Hispanic and Spanish cultures, that have made of Mexico this wonderful paradise, where while sometimes people don’t seem to be able to agree on anything, whenever the true spirit of Mexico is present, everyone is quick to join in the one phrase that identifies all Mexicans, regardless of their position or beliefs. Because when someone says: VIVA MEXICO! We all are quick to join in and answer with a loud VIVA!!! that emerges from the bottom of our hearts.