Very early in the morning on September 16, 1810, the bells of the church in Dolores (now Dolores Hidalgo, Guanajuato) rang, gathering the congregation from their beds into the plaza. Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla gave an impassioned speech, urging people to take up arms against the corrupt and morally reprehensible Spanish Crown. This is called the Grito de Dolores. Hundreds of years of colonization, changes in regime, secularization of government, and many more reasons made Mexicans from all walks of life displeased with their government. While the relative success of the Hidalgo revolt can be debated, Mexican leaders in other parts of New Spain were inspired and emboldened by Hidalgo’s Grito and went to war. 11 years of bloody, terrible fighting followed, and on September 27, 1821, Mexico won its independence from Spain. Not too long after, September 16th was declared a National Holiday. On the eve of the 16th, the Grito is performed to commemorate the bravery of Independence fighters. Although what Hidalgo actually said is lost to time, the celebratory version of the Grito typically ends with:
¡Viva la Independencia Nacional!
¡Viva México! ¡Viva México! ¡Viva México!
Celebrating Mexican Independence Day in Arizona
Arizonans have celebrated Mexican Independence Day since 1821, throwing large parades and parties called Fiestas Patrias. After 1848 (or 1854, depending on where you are in Arizona!), these celebrations were colored by both the Mexican and American flags. This “borderlands patriotism” reinforced the cultural and historic connections between the United States and Mexico. Celebrations like Fiestas Patrias and now Hispanic Heritage Month help us to reflect on our shared past, present, and future.
To learn more about Fiestas Patrias for Mexican Independence Day and beyond, check out Heather Hatch’s 1994 article in the Journal of Arizona History “Fiestas Patrias and Uncle Sam: A Photographic Glimpse of Arizona Patriotism” (Vol 35, No 4).
These photographs are from the AHS Archives Mexican Heritage Project Collection. Explore more photographs at https://azmemory.azlibrary.gov/digital/collection/ahsmexican.
Education Team Lead and Museum Educator
Arizona History Museum, Tucson