Thursday, October 3, 2013

Mexico's Independence Day

I started this post on the 15th and never quite finished....

Sunday September 15th was the "Grito de Dolores" or "Grito de la Independencia" (shout of independence), which was first made by Miguel Hidalgo in 1810 and marked the beginning of the war of independence against Spain. September 16th was Mexico's Independence Day.

We went out on the 15th, not so much for the Grito, but to celebrate a friend's birthday. We went to the Tenampa, a cantina in Plaza Garibaldi where it's rumored that some of the greats of Mexico's Golden Age of Cinema (like Pedro Infante and Jorge Negrete) frequented back in the day. 

out at Tenampa for Gaby's birthday

Mariachis serenading the birthday girl

Jarochos (from Veracruz) serenading the birthday girl

Edson "with" Pedro Infante and  Jorge Negrete, stars
from Mexico's Golden Age of Cinema
Here's the would be really easy to leave you with the Independence Day tidbit and photos of mariachis with red, white and green papel picado in the background (if that doesn't scream "México", I don't know what does...). However, there's a lot of stuff that's been going on in Mexico recently that's not so pretty and lead a lot of Mexicans to ask, "What is there to celebrate?" and call for people to abstain from the public celebrations and even protest. I generally try to keep things more light-hearted and positive on the blog to highlight the many awesome aspects of Mexico that aren't as talked about. However, to avoid sharing what's going on would be to ignore the current reality in Mexico. 

Mexico recently has passed and is in the process of passing various reforms (education, energy, fiscal, etc) which have a lot of people upset. 

The Education Reform was designed and passed without consulting teachers. While I would agree that Mexico's education system and infrastructure could definitely use some help, the reform is really more of a labor laws reform disguised as an education reform. It does nothing to change or improve the education system, curriculum or infrastructure of the schools. Basically it implements an evaluation of teachers, putting the evaluation in the hands of the government (not exactly known for being fair and partial) to determine their salary and tenure.

Teachers from throughout the country, generally part of the National Education Workers' Coordinator (Coordinadora Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación - CNTE) came to the DF to protest and camped out in the Zócalo. After 20 or so days, they were ordered to clear out -- so that the Zócalo could be used for the traditional September 15th celebration. The deadline was Friday September 13th by 4:00pm. When the area wasn't cleared out by the deadline, police in riot gear came to remove the protesters. Tear gas and water cannons were used. Bulldozers tore down remaining tents in the Zócalo. There were reports of violence from the teachers,  justifying the violence from the police. However there are also videos and photos of cops dressed in civilian clothing, with rumors that they were sent in to stir things up. Who knows. At the end of the day, there was violence and the Zócalo was cleared out.

Let's not lose sight of the irony that the protesters were forcibly removed so that Mexico could celebrate the rebels / protesters that called for Mexico's independence.

These events, coupled with other controversial reforms and general discontent of large sections of the population resulted in calls to boycott the September 15th and 16th celebrations in public spaces. There was also a "Mega march" the afternoon of the 15th, ending at the Monument to the Revolution, promoted as "citizens united against repression." 

poster promoting the "mega march"
"Citizens united against repression" 

The President and his advisors probably didn't have to stretch their imaginations too far to realize the Zócalo might not be filled with happy, patriotic supports the evening of the 15th. Rumors started circulating that certain neighborhoods were being paid to attend to attend the grito. But they're just rumors, you can't really know, right? Hah.

Below is a video (in Spanish) of an interview of a group -- mostly one woman responding -- in the front row in the Zócalo the night of the Grito. She shares, quite proudly, how they came in from the State of Mexico in 13 buses, according to her, chartered by their town president. They arrived around 3pm and were given lunch (rice, mixiotes, sandwiches and soda) from "who knows who, but they gave it to them" ("quien sabe, pero nos dieron"). They all had a sticker on their clothing, which she said was assigned to them. The group didn't give much thought that they (in the front row, brought in on buses, given food...) all had stickers, while lots of people in the back didn't have a sticker ("who knows why....").

I'm not sure if I'm more concerned about the President continuing to buy his popularity (don't forget about the gift cards for votes during elections) or that people willingly fall into the trap and don't question it - even when they're being asked about it.

La Jornada newspaper reported as well that the front of the crowd was made up of supporters brought in from the State of Mexico, though "boo's" could be heard from farther back in the crowd.

Mexico City wasn't the only place that showed their discontent. There's a video (below) circulating on Youtube of the grito in Tuxpan, Veracruz, where instead of responding with the traditional "viva" (like "long live...."), the crowed responded "fuera mal gobierno" ("get out bad government").

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