jueves, 8 de octubre de 2009

Fiestas Patrias

Contrary to popular opinion in the United States, Mexico does NOT celebrate Independence Day on the fifth of May. (In fact, most Mexicans do not celebrate Cinco de Mayo at all . . . but more on that in May.) Mexico's Independence Day (and all Central American countries' Independence Days) is on September 16th.

We planned on celebrating Independence Day with Mario's extended family in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz (again, at the very bottom of the Gulf of Mexico). Many people go out to join a "Fiesta Patria", or patriotic party, sometime in mid-September. Fiestas Patrias involve people dressing in clothes that are representative of a certain region of the country (or in green, red, and white if traditional clothes are not available). Then they get together and eat a lot of traditional Mexican food, sing mariachi and other traditional songs, drink a lot of traditional tequila, and dance.

As Mario's "uncle" Ramon turned 5o on September 15, his wife threw him a surprise birthday party, cleverly disguised as a Fiesta Patria. Somehow she was able to keep the surprise a secret, and Ramon was accordingly overwhelmed when he waltzed into the banquet hall, surrounded by 60 of his nearest and dearest friends and family.

In every town throughout Mexico, at midnight on September 15th (or 16th), the mayor of the town stands on the balcony of the town hall and shouts, "Viva Mexico!" The throng of people gathered in the square then echo "Viva Mexico!" a number of times, commemorating the shout that Father Hidalgo, a priest and father of Mexico's independence movement, gave to kick off Mexico's independence from Spain 199 years ago.

However, we were enjoying ourselves in the banquet hall and were clearly not going to join the rest of Coatzacoalcos in the town square. Therefore, at midnight, Ramon's elderly mother made her way to the balcony in the banquet hall, recited a patriotic poem, and then gave a spirited, "Viva Mexico!"

This was one of the most touching ways I've celebrated the 16th of September.