The Fourth of July celebrates the birth of a new, independent nation for the United States. It is a famous day known around the world, even though it’s a celebration held in America. Like its neighbor the United States, Mexico has its own Independence Day—and it’s not Cinco de Mayo.
What Is Mexico’s Independence Day?
This national holiday commemorates September 16, 1810, which is not the day Mexico achieved independence but the day the Mexican War of Independence began. The people of Mexico, having been under Spanish rule for 300 years, began to discuss claiming their own independence. Among the “conspirators” against the government was Catholic priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla.
On this day in 1810, the plan to revolt against Spain was found out and Hidalgo moved fast—he gathered an audience in front of his church in Dolores, Mexico, and delivered a speech: the “Grito de Dolores,” or “Cry of Dolores,” an inspiring speech that encouraged the people of Mexico to act. The audience—made up of criollos (Mexican-born people of Spanish descent), mestizos (people of mixed ancestry), and indigenous people—responded and took up arms against their Spanish rulers, marching from village to village on their way to Mexico City.
The Mexican War of Independence followed the American Revolutionary War by about 35 years. The American Revolution, like its later counterpart in Mexico, was a means to abolish British rule in America and establish a new country. The holiday that celebrates this is the Fourth of July. This date does not mark the beginning or the end of the struggle, but rather the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. This document declared that the United States of America was no longer under the rule of Great Britain.
How Independence Day in Mexico Is Celebrated
Celebrations usually begin the evening before, on September 15; those located in Mexico City gather in the Plaza de la Constitución, or the main square of the city to watch the president of Mexico ring the bell at the National Palace. After the bell has been rung, the president delivers a speech to those gathered (including a shout of “Viva México!” and “Viva la independencia!” )
Similar speeches and bell-ringing are performed around Mexico. On the day of September 16, celebrations include parades, shows, concerts, and, of course, lots of Mexican flags.
So What Is Cinco de Mayo?
Cinco de Mayo (May 5) celebrates the victory at Puebla by the Mexican army over Napoleon III’s French armies on May 5, 1862. Because the holiday is so popular in the United States, it is often confused with Mexican Independence Day. It is also an important day for those of Mexican heritage, as it represents a moment of unity for the nation: Mexican Army General Ignacio Zaragoza led his army of about 4,000 men to defeat more than 6,000 French soldiers, and suffered fewer losses. This victory became a symbol of Mexican resistance against French imperialism. Cinco de Mayo is most popular in the U.S.; in Mexico, it is generally only celebrated in the State of Puebla, where it is commemorated with a military parade, concerts and events set up by the government.