Mexican Independence Day

 

Subtopic: Mexican Independence Day

Grade Level: 3rd-5th

Author: Marla Hueller

 

Background:

Mexico is the fourth largest country in the Western Hemisphere and is located south of the United States. It is one fifth of the size of the United States, about 460,000 square miles. The land has a variety of features consisting of mountains, desert, rain forest, and beaches. The mountains are filled with minerals and natural resources that help Mexico, but they are also a problem for the people of Mexico because they make it difficult to travel. The capital of Mexico is Mexico City. The country has a republican government similar to that of the United States.

Mexico doesn't have the usual four seasons. There are only two seasons, the dry season that lasts from October to April and the rainy season that lasts from May to September. In the summer, the highs are usually around the low eighties and evenings are cool. The winter gets up to the low seventies and the nighttime low are around fifty. May is usually the warmest month because it is between the two seasons.

The people of Mexico are a blend of Indian and Spanish. The people don't identify themselves as Indian or Spanish though. They consider themselves a mixture of the two. They are working towards having a successful integration of race and culture. The official language in Mexico is Spanish and the major religion is Catholic.

History is very important in Mexico. To the Mexican people, "It is not only the story of how the present came to be, but the explanation of present realities and future possibilities." ( Burke 39) Towards the end of the eighteenth century, the middle and upper class began to question how the traditional society was based. They wanted freedom of speech, a representative government, and restrictions on the power of the Catholic Church. The people thought that the only way to get this reformed society would be to gain independence from Spain. At this point in Mexican history education was centered around theology and philosophy. The people felt that Mexico needed practical skills, engineers, and economists. They needed to reject the values of Spain and replace them with more progressive values of the world. This has led to problems for Mexico ever since. The question they have to ask themselves is, do we stick to our traditions and values or reject the past?

In the early nineteenth century the Mexicans were discussing how to revolt against Spain. This thought of revolting was influenced by America and France. There were several groups starting to rally the people for this cause. A leader of one of these groups was a priest named Father Miguel Hidalgo. Hidalgo lived in Dolores, Mexico. Hidalgo and his officers were planning a revolt for late fall of 1810. There were things that they needed to do to prepare the people for the revolt. They needed to make swords, bullets, and train the Indians how to fight. The Spanish people found out about the revolt and the Spanish government ordered the arrest of Hidalgo and his officers. When Hidalgo heard about this he called a meeting at his church. He rang the church bell on the night of September 15, 1810 to call his congregation to the church for a mass. When all the people arrived Father Hidaglo rallied the people to fight. He gave the speech that is now called Grito de Delores. He said "Viva Mexico" and "Viva la independencia!" These famous words he said have been remembered and are said each year at the Independence Day celebrations.

All the people fought together, Criollos (wealthy Mexicans of Spanish blood), Mesizos (children born of a marriage of a Spaniard and an Indian), and Indians. The people used clubs, knives, stone slings, and ancient guns. The people marched to Mexico City and along the way they fought. A battle took place in Guanajuato between the Spanish soldiers and Hidalgo's followers. The army sacked the town and killed the Spaniards. They continued to fight on their way to the capital. When they finally reached the capital, the army hesitated before going in to fight. When they hesitated some of the people deserted the army. Before the year was over Father Hidalgo was captured and executed. Other people continued to fight for the cause and Father Hidalgo's Grito de Delores (Cry of Delores) became the battle cry of the Mexican War of Independence. The people fought for eleven years before they finally won their freedom.

Today Mexican Independence Day is a major celebration in Mexico, bigger than Cinco de Mayo. The people of Mexico celebrate with a fiesta. A fiesta is a party or festival. Fiestas are held for many different reasons that vary from honoring a person, to events in Mexico's history. Fiestas can be simple or elaborate and can last from one day, up to a week or more. There are many things that can happen during a fiesta, some of these things are colorful parades, music, dancing, eating spicy food, drinking strong drinks, bullfights, rodeos, and fireworks. Vendors come and set up booths to sell toys, souvenirs, food and drinks.

The celebrating begins on September 15 (the eve of Independence Day) by having crowds of people gather in the zocalos (town meeting place) of cities, towns, and villages. In Mexico City a huge square is decorated with flags, flowers and lights of red, white, and green. People sell confetti, whistles, horns, paper-machete helmets, and toys in the colors of red, white and green. The people also eat lots of food.

The people watch the time and when the clock strikes eleven o'clock the crowd gets silent. On the last strike of eleven the president of Mexico steps out on the palace balcony, and rings the historic liberty bell that Father Hidalgo rang to call the people. Then the president gives the Grito de Delores. He shouts "Viva Mexico" "Viva la independencia" and the crowd echos back. People do this at the same time all across Mexico. While the crowd says this they fill the air with confetti, streamers and noise. Castillos explode in showers of red, white, and green. Then people go home and sleep for the next days' celebration.

The actual day of September 16 is similar to July Fourth in the Untied States. There are rodeos, parades, bullfights and horseback rider performances. The people feast and recall Hidalgo's speeches. There are statues in memory of Father Hidalgo and people decorate them with flowers that are red, white, and green.

The Mexican Flag is made of three main colors; green, white, and red. These colors all symbolize something and have an important part in the celebrations. The green is on the left side of the flag and symbolizes independence. White is the color in the middle of the flag and symbolizes religion. The red is on the right side of the flag and symbolizes union. These colors are used often in decorating for the Mexican Independence Day fiesta.

 

 

References:

 

Burke, Michael. (1992). Hippocrene Companion Guide to Mexico. New York, NY: Hippocrene Books, Inc..

 

Silverthorne, Elizabeth. (1992). Fiesta! Mexico's Great Celebrations. Brookfield, Connecticut: The Millbrook Press.

 

Objectives:

* Students will realize that countries have celebrations unique to them.

 

* Students will demonstrate their understanding of the concept of tradition.

 

* Students will identify a family tradition that is important to each of them.

 

* Students will demonstrate their understanding of the concept of independence.

 

Time Allotment: Approximately 4 to 5 class periods

 

Resources Needed:

* map of Mexico

* construction paper for flags and decorations

* ingredients for recipes and cooking supplies

* member of the community to teach a dance

 

Procedures:

A. Brainstorm. Tell the students a story of a tradition that you have been a part of during your life. Give lots of details so that they can picture what it was like. Ask students to identify a few traditions that they are familiar with. Write the ideas on the board.

B. Mini-Lecture. Explain that different countries have holidays with which we may be unfamiliar. In Mexico, holidays are called festivals or fiestas. Tell what a fiesta is and some ways they are celebrated. Show the students where Mexico is on the map. Briefly describe the country. An example of a fiesta in Mexico is Mexican Independence Day. Explain to the students that just as the United States has reasons from history as to why we celebrate our independence, so does Mexico. Put the name of the holiday and the date on the board.

C. Think -Pair-Share. Have each child think of reasons why a country would want to have independence or freedom from another country. (e.g., religious freedom, different governing, values). Have the students pair up and share their ideas with their teammate. Invite some students to share more broadly with the whole class.

D. Mini-Lecture. Explain to the students the history of Mexico's revolt against Spain. Tell the events that led up to the war and how the war was started. Explain who Father Miguel Hidalgo isand what he did to start the revolt. Tell what happened after Father Hidalgo died and that the war went on for eleven years before Mexico finally gained its freedom. Check for understanding with review questions and review material as needed. Ask students to plan a skit to reenact the night that Father Hidalgo called the people to the church. Have the class perform the skit for the teacher.

E. Concept Development. Review information regarding fiestas. Explain the events that take place in Mexico on the Eve of Mexican Independence Day and on Mexican Independence Day. Define the concept of tradition (an event or thing that is carried out or acted upon each year at the same time). Ask the students what they do every year the same way. Give examples of traditions, Christmas activities, Thanksgiving, Easter, Birthdays, Anniversaries. Share a story of a personal tradition. Have the students write a story of a tradition that they have. Choose several students to share their story with the class.

F. Hands-on. The colors of the Mexican Flag each symbolize something to the Mexican people. The green symbolizes independence, white symbolizes religion, and red symbolizes union. Talk about how things are decorated in these colors for the fiesta, for example: flags, flowers, lights, confetti, noise makers. Have the students make one of these items as if it were for a decoration for a town square on Mexican Independence Day. Display the items made as decorations in the classroom. Remind the students what each color symbolizes.

G. Fiesta. Have a Mexican Independence Day celebration in the classroom. Have the students make Mexican hot chocolate and bring Polvorones for them to eat. They can wear green, red, and white. Have a member of the community come into the classroom and teach the students a Mexican dance. Have a bell and at eleven o'clock shout the Grito de Delores and have the students echo it back.

H. Open Discussion. After all the previous activities have been completed ask the students to respond to the following question. "What do you know about Mexican Independence Day?" Each students will add at least one thing that they learned to the discussion.

 

 

 

Assessment:

Stories of traditions for the mini-lecture will be assessed.

Decorations for the celebration will be assessed.

Skit will be assessed.

Responses to discussion questions will be assessed.

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