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El Grito

Jack Schirner

Special to Village News

This last July, we celebrated the 246th anniversary of America’s independence from Britain. Or did we? There are several occurrences that we could celebrate in connection with our independence.

We could have celebrated Patrick Henry’s “Give me liberty or give me death” cry of March 23, 1775. We could have celebrated the date when the revolutionary war began, April 19, 1775, when shots were fired at the North Bridge in Concord, Massachusetts. That incident was later referred to as the “The shot heard round the World.”

Our independence was not officially recognized by the British until they signed the “Treaty of Paris” on Sept. 3, 1783, following the defeat of General Cornwallis at Yorktown in October 1781. However, we don’t use any of those occasions to celebrate.

Instead, we celebrate the “declaration” of our independence that was drafted on July 4th, 1776, read aloud publicly, and signed by 56 congressional delegates. It was that declaration that, in essence, said, “We’re not going to take your intolerable acts anymore. We will govern ourselves.”

The history surrounding our quest for independence is not totally unlike that of Mexico and the celebration of their independence from Spain. When the Spanish conquerors laid claim to all of current day Mexico and much of the southern portion of current day United States (including most of California) in the early 1600s, they were granted ownership of the land as rewards for their conquests by the Spanish crown.

For over two hundred years the “new-Spanish” residents of Mexico endured similar intolerable acts as we did by the British in the United States. There were numerous revolts and uprisings during those years.

Finally, in an impassioned speech given at 11 p.m. on Sept. 15, and again during the mass celebrated on Sunday, Sept. 16, 1810, at a church in the village of Dolores, in the north central state of Guanajuato, Father Miguel Hidalgo voiced a call to arms, which is now called “El Grito de Dolores” (The Cry of Dolores), or more commonly, El Grito (The Cry).

All his parishioners rallied behind him. Then gradually tens of thousands of ordinary new-Spanish citizens followed his cry to battle even though they were not disciplined fighters. The revolt spread throughout Mexico, with some battles won and some lost.

After more than 10 years of fighting, representatives of the Spanish crown signed the Treaty of Cordoba in 1821, which recognized the independence of the Mexican Empire. After the signing, the name of the village of Dolores was changed to Dolores Hidalgo.

Today, Spanish speaking countries all over the globe celebrate Mexican independence on Sept. 16, with food, song, dance and decorations, just as we celebrate on July 4th.

Cinco de Mayo, which was the date of a very minor victory in an obscure insurrection, is only celebrated in the United States as a commercial means of selling Mexican food and drink. This year, for the first time, your Fallbrook Senior Center will participate in celebrating Mexican Independence Day on Sept. 16 by hosting an event at the community center during the congregate lunch. Come join us as we shout, “Viva Mexico – Long live the nation’s independence.”


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