On September 16, 1810, four months before the planned start of Mexico’s war of independence but in response to discovery by local authorities, Father Manual Hidalgo y Costilla cried
la muera el mal gobierno (the death of bad government) from a church in the town of Dolores. Today, this moment is celebrated as the start of Mexican Independce and the gritois repeated throughout the country. But in many ways, it seems this nation is still fighting for its independence 200 years later.
In 1910, Mexico began a second (official) revolutio
n. From the 1930s until 2000, however, only the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) governed the county, and they have been re-elected at local and na
tional levels this year. Various governments throughout Mexico have collaborated with either (or both) drug-trafficking organizations or the United States government, and not by the will of democracy. In 1994, the indigenous group the Zapatistas rebelled against the Mexican government and the international order codified by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and currently maintain autonomous zones in southern state of Chiapas. And just last night, as Independence Day celebrations commenced across the country, demonstrators shouted “Fraud!” and “¡Mexico sin PRI!” as President Calderón reenacted the grito.
From where I write – the small city of Ojuelos de Jalisco in the literal center of Mexico – I have not observed any organized dissidence. Independence Day here didn’t feel much different from July 4th at home. There were fireworks, hot dogs, a concert, and plenty of beer. There was a running-with-the-bulls today, which I’ve never seen at home, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it happened in some parts… In fact, Ojuelos might put some July 4th celebrations to shame, as the festivities really began with an American-style rodeo last Saturday, and continued with concerts every night this week. But for one citizen, the highlight of the holidays was consistent running water. This morning, the 16th, a friend in town quipped that we may not expect a shower every day now that the holidays are over.
Patronage and pacification are nothing new in Mexico. They came alongside oppression with the Spanish, and many here feel the three haven’t left. But what is complex, interesting, and inspiring about Mexicans is that they have never stopped fighting for Independence. Earlier this month I met a woman in Mexico City’s central plaza who said that revolutionarias like her are rare these days. But she said so in front of a crowd gathered to challenge the police barring them from their historic place of gathering and protest. And she said she had devoted her life to the freedom of workers from corrupt politicians.
Mexico joined the world in protest this summer, with the #YoSoy132 movement bringing thousands to the streets in rejection of media manipulation and unfair elections. Yet this year’s marches really seem like just another marker in a nation’s long struggle for libertad. In the midst of war, and with many challenges to overcome, one cannot say if freedom is yet within reach. Nonetheless, it seems like no one here is giving up.