Festival Month | Mexico | Living in Mexico

Festival Month

I woke up from my siesta to the sound of high explosives. The quiet, sleepy summer is over. Fiesta season is upon us.

No one is as unabashedly patriotic as Mexicans. Nobody knows how to throw parties like Mexicans. And September is the month when Mexico celebrates the biggest holiday after Christmas: The Anniversary of the War of Independence.

We Norteamericanos sometimes confuse Cinco de Mayo (which commemorates the victory over the French Army at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862) with events of the War of Independence (1810-21). Actually, Cinco de Mayo has become primarily a Chicano holiday in the U. S. It receives a lot of attention because it is so heavily commercialized. Sort of like the Super Bowl, which nobody gives a sh*t about it but everybody watches because of the hype, and because they, the American public, have been thoroughly trained to buy into whatever is pushed at them through the tube. Disagree? I have two words for you: JonBenet Ramsey.

Pardon me. I digress.

Cinco de Mayo receives much less notice here, deep in the Mexican interior. But ¡Viva la Independencia! It was on September 16, 1810 that Miguel Hidalgo issued El Grito, the Cry of Independence; the equivalent of our Declaration of Independence. This is the greatest day in Mexican history.

Late in August, street vendors pop up everywhere selling flags...


...and other patriotic items. I saw one guy selling red, white and green Viking helmets. That's one that completely baffles me.


Decorations are hung across intersections...


...and on the façades of historic buildings. This image is supposed to represent General Ignacio Allende.


I think it looks like a robot in a hard hat, but then, I'm an uncultured gringo. Sketchy as it is, this image would be recognized instantly by any Mexican schoolchild. As, for example, on this old $50 peso banknote.


Flag sales have been brisk. Already they're sprouting along Aldama Street, where I live. (Mine is the yellow house on the left.)


But this is only one of many celebrations in September. We got:

• Fiesta de Nuestra Señora de los Remedios
• Festividad de la Virgen de Loreto
• Homenaje a los Niños Héroes de Chapultepec
• El Aniversario de la Independencia
• La Sanmiguelada
• La feria del pueblo
• La Alborada

It seems like the fun never ends. I enjoy all of these colorful celebrations except La Sanmiguelada, our own version of Pamploma's running of the bulls, when thousands of young people come to get drunk, to get laid and to piss in the streets. Jean and I stock up on food, cokes and movies, shut our doors, and huddle in our house until everyone goes home.

September is a great time to visit, to view or better yet, to participate in all these celebrations. But visitors shouldn't come here expecting to sleep. Fireworks at 4 AM announce each day's festivities. Parties with mega-amplified music last far into the wee hours. Singing drunks roam the streets.

It's like living in a singles apartment complex. You might as well join the party, because there's no way you're gonna escape it. I sometimes complain to my Mexican friends about the uproar. They just don't understand my attitude. Why not just have a good time with everyone else? Here, have a strawberry tamale.

When September rolls around, many of us Norteamericano residents figure—been there, done that. For us, it's a great month to be someplace else. It's shoulder season, so vacationers no longer crowd Paris, Florence or San Francisco. The theater and arts season starts in London and New York. So, many of us leave the noise and throngs of visitors in San Miguel, returning to quieter times in October when everything has calmed down.

For more on San Miguel's September festivals, click here.