This weekend Mexico celebrates its Independence from Spain. September 16, 1810 to be exact. Every delegación in Mexico City throws quite a party, with the requisite fireworks. This is the day when Mexico’s president peers out of a top-floor window at the Palacio Nacional and shouts “¡Viva México! ” to a crowd of millions.
I’ve been here for a year now and have already experienced the good, the bad, and the ugly of this city and country. But if Mexico isn’t a perfect place, it at least fosters a sense of fierce nationalism quite different than what I grew up with in the U.S. There, patriotism often takes the form of denial that the U.S. has any problems at all. The “land of opportunity” moniker is still quoted regularly, and “freedom fries” are consumed with gusto. And Heaven forbid you don’t salute the flag, or take it down every night….
In Mexico, patriotism consists of tremendous pride that the country is the birthplace of such luminaries as Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, the cradle of numerous pre-Colombian civilizations, and home to the biggest city in the Western Hemisphere. But here also, locals have no illusions that their country is a land of tremendous contrasts, with a sickening wealth gap, non-potable tap water, a tragic (and at least somewhat misguided) drug war, and a place rife with corruption and infrastructure problems. Mexicans love their country, warts and all. And Mexico – like its neighbor to the north – also has a beautiful flag (pictured above and below).
But I digress. ¡Viva México!