16 September 2006
Mexican Independence and other matters
Today is Independence Day in Mexico, except the main celebrations took place last night and it isn't independence day, anyway. Furthermore, the Exile took place in a straight armed, Springtime For Hitler type event a few days ago - and it was at a school to boot!
What is going on? Well, Mexican independence was actually declared by the Congress on the 5th November 1813 - that is if you can dignify a gang of fugitives in this way, but anyway, that's what they did.
What happened on the 16th September 1811 was that a disgruntled priest rang his church bell in the early hours of the morning to start yet another provincial revolt against Mexico City. He was quickly captured and hanged, as were most of the other leaders of other revolts that had joined in the fun. By 1821 what was left of the rebel movement consisted of a few hundred ragged peasants who were keeping out of the way of the Spanish army. Correction, the army that was loyal to Spain, but which was mainly recruited locally. Then you had a coup, and those senior officers became Mexico's leaders overnight.
Come the late Nineteenth Century, and Porfiro Diaz - the country's dictator - decided that what Mexico needed was a bit of national symbolism to unite the feuding regions together. He chose the 16th September because his birthday was on the 15th - so now you know why the cheers go up at 11.00pm on the night of the 15th.
As for the Nazi-style salutes, you get them when the flag is being honoured, or when somebody accepts a government position. Mexico seems to have taken the idea from the European fascists in the 1930s and never, er, dropped the practice.
Standing stiffly to attention, arm straight out, as a group of infant schoolchildren paraded their miniature Mexican flag, the Exile winked at the father next to him and wondered when we were attacking Poland? He was rewarded by a look of blank, stupid bewilderment on his neighbour's blank, stupid face.
Such is life in Mexico. The country celebrates its independence on the wrong date and uses symbolism that the civilised world finds either offensive or risible. The beauty of it all is that nobody realises how ridiculous they appear to the rest of us.
On the other hand, for the Mexicans last night was an excuse to start boozy festival that will leave the males legless and the women shaking their heads for days to come. As with eveything else in the country, it all comes down to getting tanked at the end.