How El Grito de Dolores Triggered the Mexican War of Independence
El Grito de Dolores (the Cry of Dolores) was the turning point that led to Mexico’s independence from the Spanish Empire. This event inspired other independence movements and wars across Latin America. The Mexican independence process started in 1810 and culminated in 1821.
Mexicans celebrate their national identity, traditions, symbols, music, and more annually. Visiting Mexico in September means seeing flags, tricolor decorations, mariachis, traditional toys, and candy everywhere.
There’s a feeling of pride and happiness in the air and in restaurants with live mariachi music. Historical monuments and government buildings light up with green, white, and red the whole month.
Read this article to discover the causes and precedents of El Grito de Dolores, as well as its highlights and aftermath. Get ready for a magnificent story of war, pride, empowerment, and victory.
Learn how we celebrate Mexican Independence Day, including our national symbols, colors, and other forms of national pride. While you’re at it, learn vocabulary words and phrases in Spanish.
¡Aprendamos historia Mexicana!
Let’s learn Mexican history!
Mexican Independence Day Facts
This section clarifies common misconceptions about Mexican Independence Day and outlines the key aspects of this festivity.
What About Cinco de Mayo?
Some people believe that Cinco de Mayo (May 5) is Mexican Independence Day, but it isn’t. On Cinco de Mayo, people remember the Mexican victory over French invaders in the Batalla de Puebla (Puebla battle).
When Did El Grito de Dolores Happen?
Most countries celebrate their independence day when their founding fathers sign the Constitution, meaning that they formally created a state. In Mexico, we celebrate the beginning of an 11-year fight. El grito de Dolores happened on September 16, 1810.
What Do People Wear on Mexican Independence Day?
If you come to Mexico to celebrate Independence Day, you need to know what to wear. Whether you’re going to a restaurant, hotel, friend’s house, or town square, the dress code is similar.
Everyone wears the Mexican flag colors (green, white, and red) with matching accessories. The alternative is to use handmade embroidered Mexican clothes of any color.
Is Mexican Independence Day a One-Day Celebration?
It’s actually a two-day celebration. On September 15, family and friends gather for dinner and to watch the president’s ceremony on TV. At the zócalo (the historic city center) and city hall, the mayors, governors, and ambassadors hold ceremonies.
On September 16, people once again have the choice of seeing the Mexican Independence Day parade in person or on TV.
According to oral tradition, after independence hero José María Morelos y Pavón instaurated the 16th as the official commemoration of Mexican Independence Day, President Porfirio Díaz added the 15th (which happened to be his birthday).
Who Was the Leader of El Grito de Dolores?
In the case of El Grito de Dolores, the leader was a revolutionary, charismatic, and noble priest. Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla is one of Mexico’s most emblematic national heroes.
Was September 16 the Original Date?
As with the Mexican Revolution and El Grito de Yara in Cuba, the original date was a different one but they had to move it up because the Royal Army discovered conspirator cells. Father Miguel Hidalgo called the people of Dolores to rise up in arms and fight for their freedom.
Mexican Independence Day Vocabulary
|leader||el líder, la líder|
|national identity||la identidad nacional|
|national pride||el orgullo nacional|
|national symbols||los símbolos nacionales|
Mexican Independence Day history starts in 1810, with El Grito de Dolores. But what causes and precedents of this level of discontent moved people to fight for what was rightfully theirs?
In New Spain—now Mexico—there was a caste system in place according to race and birthplace:
|Spanish or peninsular – español o peninsular||The Spanish had all the rights and privileges that the Empire could provide to the inhabitants of the Americas.|
|Creole – criollo||Sons and daughters of the Spanish born in New Spain had fewer social, land, political, and economic rights. They paid higher taxes than the Spanish and couldn’t run for office.|
|Half blood – mestizo||Mestizos and indigenous paid even more taxes than the creoles and had practically no rights.|
|Indigenous – indígena|
|Black – negro||Black people were slaves and people treated them inhumanely.|
As the creole population quickly outnumbered the peninsulares, they started to show discomfort that translated in almost 300 years of social agitations, almost the same amount of years the colony lasted.
The general discontentment of the last three castes sharpened in the years leading up to El Grito de Dolores. Social oppression of the lower castes coupled with low agricultural production created economic recession and famine.
At the same time, the Spanish Empire was running out of funds and was invaded by Napoleon Bonaparte, causing the king to abdicate. A headless Spain could not maintain solidity in Europe or in America, which made it a prime moment to revolt. Other colonies began to rebel against the empire and attain autonomy.
More Mexican Independence Day Vocabulary – A to E
|agricultural production||la producción agrícola|
|caste system||el sistema de castas|
|economic recession||la recesión económica|
These sovereign ideas filtered to Mexico through salones (saloons)—illegal gatherings where creoles, half-bloods, and indigenous united to conspire against the Spanish.
One of the conspirators and distributors of revolutionary ideas, propaganda, and books was liberal priest Miguel Hidalgo. “Power emanates from the people” was the most dangerous one.
More Mexican Independence Day Vocabulary – F to S
|priest||el cura, el sacerdote|
|social agitations||las agitaciones sociales|
|social oppression||la opresión social, la represión social|
El Grito de Dolores
El Grito de Dolores or El Grito de Independencia (The Cry of Independence) was the natural consequence of a social and political process that had to be resolved by armed rebellion.
Father Miguel Hidalgo was the rector of San Nicolás College. He studied humanism, philosophy, theology, and even books forbidden by the Catholic church. He spoke Latin, French, Spanish, and indigenous languages like Náhuatl (the Aztecs’ native tongue) and Otomí.
Father Miguel Hidalgo set the date of the strike for the night of September 15 and the wee hours of September 16. He met with a small group of civilians and military, national heroes Juan Aldama and Ignacio Allende amongst them.
Father Miguel Hidalgo went to Dolores Parish and rang the bell. To this day, the Mexican president rings the same bell every year at the Palacio Nacional (National Palace). The people responded to the call and the charismatic priest convinced them to unite forces to be heard and to claim what was theirs.
He unknowingly began a movement that he would never live to witness. The banner Miguel Hidalgo used and with which he transcended in history was one with the Virgin of Guadalupe which charged the movement with significance.
He spoke about injustice and freedom to people who were tired of being exploited and enslaved. He talked about how the church had kidnapped religion and taken advantage of the poor.
Father Miguel Hidalgo’s Speech
|My friends and compatriots,|
The moment of our freedom has come, the hour of our freedom, and if you recognize its great value, you will help me to defend it from the ambition of tyrants. Only a few hours left.
Before you see me at the head of the men who pride themselves on being free,I invite you to fulfill this obligation, and without homeland or freedom we will always be a great distance from true happiness.
The cause is holy and God will protect it. Long live the Virgin of Guadalupe! Long live America for which we are going to fight!
|Mis amigos y compatriotas: El momento de nuestra libertad ha llegado, la hora de nuestra libertad, |
y si usted reconoce su gran valor,
me ayudará a defenderla de la ambición de los tiranos. Sólo quedan unas horas. Antes de que me veas a la cabeza de los hombres que se enorgullecen de ser libres, te invito a cumplir esta obligación,
y sin patria ni libertad estaremos siempre a gran distancia de la verdadera felicidad.
La causa es santa y Dios la protegerá. ¡Larga vida a la Virgen de Guadalupe! ¡Larga vida a América por la que vamos a luchar!
El Grito de Dolores was seconded by other towns and conspiracy cells, which gave strength to the whole independence movement.
Finally, Hidalgo was defeated, captured, and killed as he tried to escape to the north. From this moment forward, Mexico’s independence went through many stages, victories, and defeats under many leaders, each more radical than the previous.
Finally, Agustín de Iturbide and Vicente Guerrero organized the insurgent flocks with the Iguala Plan. Eleven years of battle culminated in the triumphant entrance of the Trigarante Army to Mexico City on September 27, 1821.
After many attempts at reconquest, Spain finally recognized Mexico as an independent country in 1836. El Grito de Dolores was the official start of the independence movement that put an end to the Spanish dominance and abuse and gave birth to Mexican national pride and identity.
Grito de Dolores Vocabulary
|armed rebellion||la rebelión armada|
|Catholic church||la iglesia católica|
|forbidden books||los libros prohibidos|
|independence movement||el movimiento independentista|
|national heroes||los héroes nacionales|
|ring the bell||tañer la campana|
Independence Holiday and Traditions
The Mexican Independence Day parade occurs every September 16, a national holiday.
The independence celebration includes dancing, singing, getting together with family and friends, and eating dishes like chile en nogada—which has green chili, white nogada sauce, and red pomegranate, simulating the colors of the flag. People watch el grito or “the cry” of the current president in the zócalo of the Ciudad de México (Mexico City).
During this ceremony, the Mexican president appears on the balcony of the National Palace at 11 p.m. Most presidents exalt national values and heroes, ending with the famous phrase, Viva México.
|Mexicans:Long live our independence!Long live Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla!Long live José María Morelos y Pavón!Long live Josefa Ortíz de Domínguez!Long live Ignacio Allende!Long live Leona Vicario!Long live Vicente Guerrero!Long live freedom!Long live justice!Long live equality!Long live democracy!Long live honesty!Long live our sovereignty!Long live neighborly love!Long live the cultures of prehispanic Mexico!Long live Mexico!Long live Mexico!Long live Mexico!||Mexicanas y Mexicanos:¡Viva la Independencia!¡Viva Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla!¡Viva José María Morelos y Pavón!¡Viva Josefa Ortiz de Domínguez!¡Viva Ignacio Allende!¡Viva Leona Vicario!¡Viva Vicente Guerrero!¡Viva la libertad!¡Viva la justicia!¡Viva la igualdad!¡Viva la democracia!¡Viva la honestidad!¡Viva nuestra soberanía!¡Viva el amor al prójimo!¡Viva las culturas del México prehispánico!¡Viva México!¡Viva México!¡Viva México!|
He then waves the flag with the colors green for independence, white for religion, and red for union, and everyone sings Mexico’s national anthem.
|national holiday||la fiesta nacional|
|national values||los valores nacionales|
|to wave||ondear, agitar, saludar|
Mexican Independence Day 2021
This year’s Mexican Independence Day was affected by Covid. People were forbidden to gather in most town squares across Mexico, so the only choices were to go to a restaurant or watch the ceremony from home.
The government tried to do as much as other years (without live spectators) to keep the national spirit up. Mexican Independence Day 2021 celebrated the bicentennial of independence.
Mexican Independence Parade
The next day was the Mexican Independence Day Parade. The event began with a short ceremony and kick-off with military paratroopers coming from the skies in helicopters with green, white, and red sparklers and uniforms.
The zócalo of Mexico City had prehispanic motifs to frame the parade. Military marching bands played, led by a unit in the Trigarante Army Uniform and flag with an allegorical car with a reenactment of Miguel Hidalgo ringing the bell at El Grito de Dolores.
Special forces, National Guard, Air Force, Mexican Army, and the Navy are all part of this event. Their flocks and allegorical cars are intercalated with motorcycles, tanks, and other military vehicles as well as helicopters and planes showing pilots’ skills.
The last part is reserved for the charros or horsemen with a demonstration of their skills. Their importance is to make Mexican culture and history prevail. Check out the whole Mexican Independence Day 2021 Parade! If you are curious about how large the parade was before the pandemic, here is a link to the 2017 Mexican Independence Day.
|civil protection||la protección civil|
|marching band||la banda de marcha|
|national spirit||el espíritu nacional|
|town square||la plaza|
Where is Best to Celebrate it?
Dolores, Querétaro, San Miguel de Allende, and Mexico City are the most common places to celebrate El Grito de Dolores. While Dolores is naturally the epicenter of Mexican Independence Day celebrations, all of these cities are part of Mexico’s Freedom Trail.
If you’re outside of Mexico but wish to experience Mexican Independence Day, go to the nearest Mexican embassy or consulate. You’ll have a great time surrounded by people who miss their country and celebrate it to honor their homeland.
Learn Spanish and Go to Mexico
Get to know more about the fascinating story of El Grito de Dolores and the history of Mexico. The best way to learn from other countries’ history and culture is to witness it. And the best way to travel is without language barriers.
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