Written by Phil Cerroni
Mexican Americans proudly celebrate Mexican Independence
By Phil Cerroni
The Fourth of July is one of the most celebrated holidays in the American calendar and has a whole battery of ceremonies and tradition that go along with its honored place. On Sep. 15, the Mexican Consulate General in Dallas rented one of the halls in the Irving Convention Center in order to celebrate a different independence day: Mexico’s Independence.
Jesus Contreras, the Consul for Media Affairs, Consulate General of Mexico in Dallas, was more than happy to explain both the historical and the cultural significance of this event.
“Everywhere in the world where there is a Mexican community, a consulate or an embassy of Mexico we celebrate the independence ceremony on the 15th of September,” Contreras said. “For us, this is a great opportunity to get together and show unity, and is a big day for Mexico. Our independence day is actually the 16th of September, but on the night of the 15th our heroes started the independence movement at 12 o’clock so everywhere we have a ceremony, at different hours, but the same ceremony.”
“My sister lives in Boise, Idaho, and we right now she is dancing in front of thousands of people also, doing the same exact celebrating and remembrance of our country,” said Haidy Leal, one of the event’s participants. “Us representing our country and remembering the independence of it and remembering everything we had to go through to get to where we are now. That’s why we celebrate.”
The celebration commemorates “El Grito de la Independencia,” or “Cry of Independence” that was shouted by Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla in Dolores, Mexico on Sep. 16, 1810. It marked the start of a popular revolt that became known as the Mexican War of Independence and lasted until 1821.
A contemporary aspect of the celebrations in the United States is to act as a counterforce to the negative portrayal of Mexico in the American news.
“We are a big number; Mexico has many things to be proud of,” insisted Contreras. “Sometimes you read the newspapers – things that happen in Mexico – yes, they do happen, but we have much more things in the country to be proud of. That’s what we want to communicate in the community.”
Contreras also insisted that unity among Mexican Americans as Mexicans is key to developing unity as Americans.
“We insist that our people integrate in the United States, and they are integrated in many ways. So first we have to be integrated ourselves, and we’re here and we promote that. One extremely important thing about our community is they’re here because they’re working here. They’re looking for a better like, and they’re communicating with the rest [of the United States]. That’s a way to show how integrated they are by showing their work,” Contreras said.
Haidy Leal echoed Contreras’ words, about Mexican integration into the United States, saying that celebrating the independence of the old country adds a rich layer to life in their new homeland.
“We are not just raised with the American culture, but we have another mindset also, which makes us better Americans,” Leal said. “So we bring the best of the two worlds, and we enrich people with the culture. You don’t go to American Independence Day and say, ‘Let’s dance American.’ We don’t have American music as the ethnicity, American food you think pizza and hamburgers. We have the knowledge of the American side, and we also have the knowledge and the culture of the Mexican side. There are a lot of people even in Texas who are unaware that today is Mexican Independence Day, or they think in Mexico, they speak Mexican.”
Jonathan Tarin pointed out that integrating into a new culture takes time.
“When you’re first generation Hispanic, and you adapt to the American lifestyle, you’re taking on what America is, you’re first language is eventually going to become English,” Tarin said. “These children are going to public schools. Our cities are educating these young kids who at home are more likely being spoke to in Spanish and are answering in English. We take on the lifestyle of Americans. Obviously your parents, your educational levels and the drive that we want to succeed are always going to be implemented into our children and even into us.”
This dual responsibility may be a difficult concept for a fourth generation American or even more so for someone whose family has been in this country since before its independence. For many of us, our cultural pride is American, when we think of American music, we think of the Blues and folk, and American barbecue is pretty unique. At the same time, however, there are many aspects of our own culture that have been passed down through successive generations of Americans from various immigrant cultures. This may be religion or certain foods, but the same spirit of pride that prompts Mexican Americans to celebrate Mexican Independence motivates our own, albeit further removed, traditions.