To say my parents are from a small town in Jalisco, Mexico, is an understatement. Although Colotlan is small and quaint, it’s full of rich history and traditions that are passed down from generation to generation. I am fortunate to be a part of it all.
As National Hispanic Heritage Month begins on Sept. 15, there are numerous holidays celebrated. Sept. 15 is a very important day. Five different Hispanic countries, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua, will be celebrating their Independence Day. Following is Mexico’s Independence Day on Sept. 16, and Chile’s on Sept. 18.
To commemorate the bicentennial anniversary of Mexico’s independence, there will be a celebration held this year in Los Angeles “…at the Nokia Plaza at LA Live on Wednesday, Sept. 15, the eve of the holiday,” writes Alysia Gray Painter in “El Grito Celebration at LA Live.”
Being a proud first-generation Mexican-American, I’m excited to celebrate the Mexican Independence Day this year, since it is the bicentennial. The celebration actually begins the morning of Sept. 15; children attend school as normal while the rest of the family gathers at home to prepare dinner. Dinner consists of traditional Mexican foods such as pozole (hominy soup), tamales, tostadas, enchiladas, and for dessert, bunuelos. Since these foods are typically handmade from scratch, it takes a whole day to prepare everything, with the whole family diligently helping.
After our family sits down for dinner, we watch a live televised showing of Mexico’s president, Felipe Calderon, give what is commonly called El Grito or El Grito De Dolores, beginning at midnight in Mexico. This is a ceremony in which he yells out “Viva Mexico” and everyone in attendance responds “Viva!” Typically, they go down a list of important Mexican Independence Day figures, such as Miguel Hidalgo, who is considered the father of the Mexican Independence since he spearheaded the whole uprising. After this is done, the President then rings a church bell continuously in a manner called a repique, which is how priests call people to mass or prayer in small towns; it is also used as a form of communication within the community. Fireworks are let off and the celebration officially begins. There is music, dancing, and little sleep on the 16th of September since it is a national holiday in which no one is supposed to work so they can celebrate the whole day.
Growing up, I never took much pride in my heritage since I lived in a Caucasian-dominated town where I endured teasing everyday due to my ethnicity. I learned to appreciate and take tremendous pride in my Mexican heritage. Now, I look forward to celebrating El Grito and enjoying the history and traditions that the ceremony has to offer. I had the pleasure of attending a ceremony in Mexico over five years ago, and it was a party that felt as though it went on for three days. Being the Mexican Independence Day bicentennial this year, El Grito ceremony is sure to be unforgettable.
Alysia Gray Painter “El Grito Celebration at LA Live” NBCLosAngeles.com