The History and Traditions of Mexico’s National Anthem
The Mexican national anthem is one of the three national symbols of Mexico along with the flag and the shield. People have been listening to, performing, and singing it since 1854 but it didn’t become official until 1943.
It is a battle cry that tells the stories of the many military victories Mexicans had at a time when they felt demoralized after losing half of their territory to the United States of America. It served to heighten the defeated spirits of the people.
Many historians consider the Mexican national anthem as one of the most beautiful in the world. By reading or hearing it you can guess it is about war, but the central theme is really the peace that comes afterward and how it praises the importance and honor of defending the motherland.
Read ahead to find out the history of the Mexican national anthem. Also, learn about what happened to six of the original 10 stanzas and who was forced to write them. Learn about the anthem’s regulations—avoid fines when you try to sing it!—and how you can discover if someone is Mexican just by how they sing it.
Mexican National Anthem History
President Santa Ana—who many still hold responsible for the territory loss—called for a contest in 1853 to make an epic to commemorate the Tampico battle, the last military encounter against the Spanish Empire in Mexico. The winning lyrics and music would later become the Mexican national anthem.
Francisco González Bocanegra was a 30-year-old talented Mexican poet who was reluctant to participate. Many of his family and friends tried to convince him but any attempt was useless as he thought of himself to be a love poet.
It wasn’t until Guadalupe González del Pino, his fiancée, lured him into a bedroom under false pretenses with the help of her father. Once in, she locked the door preventing him from getting out and forced him to write something for the competition. According to oral tradition, she would slip food and water under his door and had placed pictures of Mexican victories inside the room for inspiration.
After 4 hours he was out with a 10-stanza entry worthy of competing that Guadalupe approved. As a result, the judges unanimously selected his work as the winning piece.
Many years later, and after a parade of anthems that had a fleeting success, President Porfirio Díaz defended this one and popularized it as the one, only and new Mexican national anthem.
Almost a century after Bocanegra won—for which he never received any kind of recognition—the government took six stanzas out of the official Mexican national anthem, leaving the first, fifth, sixth and tenth, plus the chorus. The cause for this was that some of them praised Mexican political and historical characters that became villains and traitors. Among them were Antonio López de Santa Ana and Mexico’s first Emperor Agustín de Iturbide. This is the exact reason why people didn’t love the Mexican national anthem immediately.
The most famous verse is “Mexicans at the cry of war” (Mexicanos al grito de guerra) which is also how it begins. Although all verses allude to war, if you read it carefully—you can find the full version on the Mexican national anthem lyrics section—it tells us how they long for peace but if the enemy dares to invade, the motherland has “a soldier in every son.”
A second competition was held in which judges chose Catalonian Jaime Nunó’s music to accompany Bocanegra’s lyrics. Nunó was then the director of the Queen’s Regimental Band and the leader of the King of Spain band.
On one of his trips to Cuba he became friends with President Santa Ana, who later invited him to lead Mexican military bands. Nuno’s visit to Mexico occured at the same time as the Mexican national anthem competition. He composed the song titled God and Freedom (Dios y libertad) with the quality of classical music.
The remains of both Francisco González Bocanegra—who shares his name with 385 streets of Mexico—and Jaime Nunó are in the Roundabout of the Illustrious People (Rotonda de las Personas Ilustres).
Mexican National Anthem Regulations
Here are the regulations according to the Law on National Arms, Flag, and Anthem (Ley sobre el Escudo, la Bandera y el Himno Nacionales) that apply to Mexico’s National Anthem.
The law is the only one that can designate the Mexican national anthem.
According to the law, it should always be in the National Library as well as the National Museum of History.
Any kind of reproduction has to be serious.
Any time people are singing Mexico’s national anthem, they have to ensure it is with absolute respect and solemnity.
No alterations are allowed.
No one can alter it in any way, nor the lyrics, the music or the tempo.
It is illegal to play it at commercial events.
The national anthem cannot be used for commercial purposes. The authorities actually took it out of the movie Jumanji when it came to Mexico.
Anthems from other nations need authorization.
The law also forbids you from playing or interpreting other nation’s anthems unless you have proper authorization from the government. When in this situation, the Mexican national anthem should be played first.
Radio and TV programming sign in and off with the Mexican national anthem.
When it comes to TV, pictures of the flag should accompany the anthem.
The Mexican national anthem can only be part of official events.
Events with official authorization of cultural, civic, or sports categories.
Military bands should be silent.
When the choir is singing the Mexican national anthem, military bands must keep silent at all times.
No translation is allowed.
You cannot translate it to other languages unless they are Mexican indigenous.
If anyone is to play or sing the Mexican national anthem incorrectly or without the solemnity it deserves, that person will receive a fine from the government. It has happened more than once on national TV while at a great event. This offends most people who normally express their disapproval towards the musician on stage.
Mexican National Anthem Traditions
As a spectator at these events or at home, you should sing the Mexican national anthem while standing up and paying attention. It is important that you remove any kind of head garment and to salute.
Many people around the world put their right hands over their hearts to sing their respective national anthem, but we place our right hand at the center of our chests with four fingers straight and together pointing left and the thumb pointing to the floor.
An easy way of testing someone who is pretending to be from Mexico is by asking them the Mexican national anthem. A famous incident in Tokyo happened where four men were arrested and claimed to be Mexicans. Japanese police officers asked them to sing the anthem but they couldn’t. That’s how local authorities discovered their Mexican passports were forged and that they were actually Colombians.
Mexican National Anthem Lyrics
Since 1943, the Mexican national anthem has consisted of one chorus and four stanzas. The chorus has 6 verses and the stanzas eight. When people play it or perform it at official events, they do it with a shortened version that includes only the chorus and first stanza and sometimes the tenth stanza as well. The chorus is always between the stanzas and at the beginning and end.
|Chorus:Mexicans, at the cry of war,assemble the steel and the bridle,and the Earth trembles to its coreto the resounding roar of the cannon.And the Earth trembles to its coreto the resounding roar of the cannon!|
Encircle Oh Motherland!, your temples with olivesthe divine archangel of Peace,for in heaven your eternal destinywas written by the finger of God.If, however, a foreign enemy would dareto profane your ground with their sole,think, oh beloved Motherland!, that Heavenhas given a soldier to every son.
War, war! With no mercy to any who shall tryto tarnish the coats of arms of the Motherland!War, war! The national bannersshall be drenched in the waves of blood.War, war! On the mountain, in the valley,the cannons thunder in horrid unisonand the sonorous echoes resoundwith bellows of Union! Liberty!
O, Motherland, if however your children, defenselesswith their necks bent beneath the yoke,may your fields be watered with blood,may their footsteps be printed with blood.And your temples, palaces and towersshall collapse with horrid clamor,and your ruins continue on, whispering:of one thousand heroes, the Motherland once was.
Motherland! Motherland! Your children assureto breathe until their last for your sake,if the bugle with its bellicose accentcalls them together to battle with courage.For you, the olive wreaths!For them, a reminder of glory!For you, a laurel of victory!For them, a tomb of honor!
|Coro:Mexicanos, al grito de guerrael acero aprestad y el bridón.Y retiemble en sus centros la Tierra,al sonoro rugir del cañón.Y retiemble en sus centros la Tierra,¡al sonoro rugir del cañón!|
Ciña ¡oh Patria!, tus sienes de olivade la paz el arcángel divino,que en el cielo tu eterno destinopor el dedo de Dios se escribió.Mas si osare un extraño enemigoprofanar con su planta tu suelo,piensa ¡oh, Patria querida! que el cieloun soldado en cada hijo te dio.
¡Guerra, guerra! Sin tregua al que intenteDe la patria manchar los blasones!¡Guerra, guerra! Los patrios pendonesen las olas de sangre empapada.¡Guerra, guerra! En el monte, en el vallelos cañones horrísonos truenen,y los ecos sonoros resuenencon las voces de ¡Unión! ¡Libertad!
Antes, patria, que inermes tus hijosbajo el yugo su cuello dobleguen,tus campiñas con sangre se rieguen,sobre sangre se estampe su pie.Y tus templos, palacios y torresse derrumben con hórrido estruendo,y sus ruinas existan diciendo:de mil héroes la patria aquí fue.
¡Patria! ¡Patria! Tus hijos te juranexhalar en tus aras su aliento,si el clarín con su bélico acentolos convoca a lidiar con valor.¡Para ti las guirnaldas de oliva!¡Un recuerdo para ellos de gloria!¡Un laurel para ti de victoria!¡Un sepulcro para ellos de honor!
The Mexican national anthem is an invitation to be a patriot and calls for unity and respect towards our homeland. The chorus is a call to Mexicans to get ready to fight in order to defend their motherland, honor, and dignity. The first stanza is a reference to the victories they await and look forward to, and the olive crown is a symbol of that victory.
According to Bocanegra, dying for the country is something honorable and will secure you a place in heaven as well as turn you into a hero in the minds of everyone. Soldiers will receive all kinds of rewards and glories if they fall during battle. As you can see this is the portrait of 19th century religious and warlike Mexico.
Long Live Mexico’s History!
The best way to learn history is by living it. If you are curious about Mexico’s history and culture, I highly recommend you visit my beautiful country. You can go to the exact same places where the Mexican Independence and Revolution happened!
Visit the city where Bocanegra was born and see the reconstructed theatre where they played the Mexican national anthem for the first time. You can also experience the vibrant Mexican national anthem at a soccer match or at any town square on Independence day.
Travel more easily to Mexico and learn the country’s national anthem to feel like a local. You can tailor a Spanish package with HSA that suits your needs and interests before your upcoming trip. Practice with our native Spanish speakers and become one of our 24,000+ monthly enrolled students. Let our 10 years of expertise guide you into the adventurous world of the Spanish language. Sign up for a free class to prepare for your trip to Mexico today!
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