South of the border

This year, 2010 is both a centennial and bicentennial for Mexico. In Mexico, Independence Day, September 16 and Revolution Day, November 20, are both important patriotic celebrations. This year is extraordinary because it marks both the bicentennial of what became the Mexican independence movement in 1810, and the centennial of the start of the Mexican Revolution in 1910.

The dual anniversaries provide an opportunity to reflect upon the complex and intriguing history of Mexico. And who knows, perhaps even learn lessons for the future.

The bicentennial celebrates the independence of Mexico from Spain in the early 19th century. The uprising that became the Mexican independence movement began in 1810, on the night of September 15. That night, Catholic priest Miguel Hidalgo gathered the people in the Zócalo, or the main plaza, where he gave a speech and rang a bell calling the people to action.

Hidalgo was executed in 1811, but the struggle continued. Eventually, Mexico became independent from Spain in 1821. And here lies another historical coincidence, since 300 years earlier, in 1521 was the year in which the Aztec Empire fell and Spanish rule began.

The Mexican War of Independence is not to be confused with the Mexican Revolution, which occurred a century later. The Revolution began on November 20, 1910, as an uprising against longtime dictator and President Porfirio Diaz. After driving Diaz out of the country in 1911, revolutionary factions fought each other in a bloody civil war. The Revolution lasted from 1910 to 1920.

One of the most concrete results of the Revolution was the current Mexican Constitution, drafted in 1917. Both Independence Day in September and Revolution Day in November are popular observances celebrated annually. Since this year is both a bicentennial and centennial, in Mexico a number of observances are taking place. Current president Felipe Calderon has declared the entire year of 2010, as the Año de la Patria or Year of the Nation.

Presently, there are cultural, artistic and educational programs aplenty. There are historical commemorative ceremonies, artistic exhibitions, conferences and radio shows. Large digital countdown clocks have been installed in cities across Mexico. Major media companies compete with each other to produce programming related in some way to the bicentennial and the centennial.

Motorists traveling in many parts of the country can see Ruta 2010, posted signs on the highway with routes that commemorate and follow military movements and historical figures in the Independence and Revolutionary periods. For the curious traveler, this is a fascinating way to map out the country and see where historical events took place.

The Mexican Bicentennial/Centennial is expanding beyond the nation’s borders. There are exhibitions of art from different stages of Mexico’s history in various foreign capitals. Mexican embassies and consulates are also hosting cultural events abroad.

All these events reflect on Mexico… not only as an occasion for euphoria and collective gaiety that all of society should make participate in but also that the introduction of history and culture bring a new understanding of Mexico’s past and unity for the future.


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