Sunday, September 16th marked Mexico’s Independence Day, the celebration of Mexican independence from Spanish rule. In some ways, Independence Day here in Playa del Carmen is very similar to Independence Day celebrations in the U.S. Families and friends gather for food, drinks and good times, stores and homes are decorated in the colors of the national flag, and a fireworks display enthralls crowds in the town square.
But instead of burgers and brats (sorry, I’m from the Midwest), Mexicans indulge in the traditional party food of pozole, a hominy and pork soup. They decorate their homes, cars and tiendas with Mexican flags and red, white and green ‘papel picado’, another Mexican tradition of decoratively cut paper banners.
The most interesting difference to me is the tradition of the grito (shout). The grito is a reenactment of the shout to fight for liberty made by Father Hidalgo in the wee hours of September 16th, 1810. Today, crowds gather in town squares all over Mexico on the evening of the 15th to participate in the reenactment. A government official shouts ‘Mexicanos, Viva Mexico!’ (Mexicans, Long Live Mexico!) to which the crowd responds ‘Viva!’. This is repeated several times, then the Mexican flag is waved, and then um …
Well, the truth is that John and I have somehow managed to miss this ceremony two years in a row now. This year, we were eating pozole at a bar just a block from all the action, when the ceremony began earlier than scheduled. We heard the shout, but missed the rest of the ceremony. We did run up to the roof of bar, and managed to see much of the fireworks display, which was even better this year than last!
The celebration in Playa was very much a party atmosphere. Revelers were shouting and using noisemakers, waving flags and banners. Vendors sold everything from Mexican flags to marquesitas (a tasty, crispy crepe filled with edam cheese) to ceramic frogs.
The next day a parade was held, which we missed. However, we were thrilled to accept an invitation to the house of a Mexican friend for an Independence Day party. Unfortunately, I had felt sick since waking that morning, and the aroma of the food which our friend, Ara, had so lovingly prepared for us, made my nausea unbearable.
So, I had to go back home to nibble on plain crackers and sip 7-Up, while John had a grand old time, eating home-cooked pozole and tinga de pollo (shredded chicken in chipotle sauce), attempting to understand and participate in Spanish conversations, drinking tequila, and singing along to Mexican music. Mexicans love to sing LOUDLY! John came home raving about his Mexican Independence Day.