Having missed Independence Day in the US this year we were pretty excited about celebrating Mexican Independence Day this week. That’s right, THIS week. Not Cinco de Mayo. Cinco de Mayo is largely celebrated in the United States and commemorates a Mexican Victory over the French army in the 1860’s. In most of Mexico (including Playa del Carmen) Cinco de Mayo means just that, the 5th of May and not much else. Mexican Independence Day is a celebration of Mexico winning its, well, independence, from Spain after 11 bloody years of war and is celebrated on September 15th and 16th.
Okay, I know what you’re thinking – enough with the history lesson, get to the part about the party! Give me a couple more seconds of your time and I promise to move on to the fun part. Deal?
It all kicks off at 11:00PM on September 15th with the President of Mexico reading a proclamation outside the National Palace in Mexico City and local politicians and public figures doing the same in town and city squares all across Mexico. The proclamation is known as the Grito de Delores (El Grito) and is probably most famous to non-Mexicans as the birth place of “Viva Mexico!” However, it has a very important place in Mexican history because it was originally a speech by Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla announcing the rebellion against Spain and the start of the Mexican War of Independence.
Still with me? Okay good. Now let’s get to the fun stuff – the party! As I said above (if you read it), the party starts at 11:00 p.m. which gives everyone ample time to get warmed up and get a little pre-gaming in. In keeping with our commitment to trying new things and in an attempt to blend in (yeah right), we were no different. We headed over to a Mexican friend’s house a couple of hours early to learn how to celebrate Independence Day in proper fashion. Upon our arrival we were greeted with the traditional gifts of tequila and face paint. Well, I don’t know if they’re really “traditional” but if they’re not, they should be. After using the paint on our faces and the tequila on our livers our mixed group of Mexicans and Gringos headed out into the night. And directly into a rainstorm. A big, huge, nasty monsoon of a rainstorm. So back inside we went.
After a couple more rounds of tequila for some and face paint for others (and both for a few) the storm temporarily died down and we were able to head out. We missed El Grito during the cloudburst but upon our arrival at the town square we were greeted with a great site. Hundreds of people were braving the rain to enjoy the bands, carnival rides and food vendors. The rain continued off and on all night but not even that could dampen the crowd’s enthusiasm (see what I did there?). The rain even let up long enough for the fireworks!
If it started raining hard everyone ran for the nearest cover. And when it stopped, the music started back up again, everyone came back out and the fun continued. The weather actually seemed to bring a sense of “we’re all in this together” to the crowd that made the night even more fun. If you’ve ever been to a concert in the rain than you know what I’m talking about.
After dancing to a tuba solo for a while we decided we’d head off to explore what else the celebration had to offer. We didn’t have to go far before we saw them. Bumper cars. For adults. Of course we drove them. In fact, we had so much fun that when our first turn was over the man in charge let us go again for free. I’d like to think it was due our chants of Otra! Otra! Otra! (Another! Another! Another!) but I think he really just liked watching us make fools of ourselves. I don’t blame him, so did I!
They say all good things must come to an end and I assume that the Mexican Independence Day celebration eventually did too but I have no idea when. Last I saw the celebration was still going strong. We arrived home well into the night, wet, tired and extremely happy. It was great to be with friends, meet new people and munch on local specialties but most of all it was great to further immerse ourselves in the culture of our adopted home. Viva Mexico!