On Sept. 16th, Mexico celebrates the 200th anniversary of the beginning of their war for independence from Spain. The President of Mexico rang the bell of the National Palace and recited the Grito Mexicano, in memory of the struggle for independence from Spain.
Americans often think of May 5th as Mexico’s independence day.Â It is not – May 5th is the anniversary of the Battle of Puebla in 1862, when Mexican forces defeated an invading French army.Â Mexico had already been an independent country for 40 years.
The true story of Mexico’s struggle for independence begins in the beautiful hills of Guanajuato state, north of Mexico City.Â A group of local leaders had been meeting for months, plotting revolution against the Spaniards.Â Led by Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, Ignacio Allende, and Mariano Abasolo, they planned to start the war on Oct. 2nd, 1810.Â But the plot was betrayed to the Spaniards.
Fearing imminent arrest, they began the revolution immediately.Â In the early hours of Sept. 16, 1810, the church bells of Dolores rang out, and Father Hidalgo delivered the now-famous Grito, or Cry, for independence.Â In part it read:
My children: a new dispensation comes to us today. Will you receive it? Will you free yourselves? Will you recover the lands stolen by three hundred years ago from your forefathers by the hated Spaniards? We must act at onceâ€¦ 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!
This marked the beginning of the war for independence, which lasted for 10 years.Â None of the original conspirators survived to see independence, but their memories live on in both place names and celebrations.Â The town of Dolores is now known as Dolores Hidalgo, in memory of Father Hidalgo.Â And Ignacio Allende is remembered in the current name of his home town – San Miguel de Allende.
The cradle of Mexican independence, Guanajuato state now makes a fascinating destination for the traveler who wants to venture beyond Mexico’s fabled beaches.
The town of Guanajuato is one of the most European-feeling places in Mexico.Â Narrow cobblestone streets wind up steep slopes, leading to the many art schools and the University that give Guanajuato it’s vibrant, youthful feel.Â Although the city hosts the yearly Cervantes arts festival every October (see the Exito blog entry!), Guanajuato is a year-round destination.Â The cool climate is pleasant all year, making walking tours a pleasure.
The beautiful Teatro Juarez is a lovely landmark overlooking one of the many squares that dot Guanajuato.Â Stop in at one of the many cafes and restaurants overlooking the square to sip a cafe con leche and watch the crowds walk by. Â Then continue on to the Diego Rivera museum, or picturesque Callejon del Beso (Alley of the Kiss, where the narrow street is overhung by two balconies only inches apart).Â Or just wander the beautiful streets, allowing yourself to drink in the ambiance of this lovely World Heritage city.
Nearby San Miguel de Allende offers a contrasting beauty of it’s own.Â While Guanajuato remains a robustly Mexican city, San Miguel de Allende has a distinct international flair.Â Artists, students, and retirees from around the world have flocked to this picturesque town.Â Â San Miguel de Allende now offers the visitor world-class food, hotels, and art galleries, as well as such attractions as Mexico’s only Gothic-style cathedral.Â Â Â The flatter, drier countryside is an interesting contrast to mountainous Guanajuato town.
Both cities played important roles in the history of Mexico, and both cities are beautiful spots for a day, a week, or longer.