Mexican Independence Day 16 de Septiembre


El Grito every 16th of September is the Mexican Fiesta par excellence! On this day Mexicans all over the world celebrate Mexico’s independence from Spanish rule.

This 2019 Mexico commemorates   219 years of Independence from Spanish rule and 119 years of its Revolution that began in 1910 and toppled dictator Porfirio Diaz.  Indigenous peoples were the first to inhabit what is now known as Mexico. They founded great civilizations such as the Olmec, the Teotihuacan, MayaToltec, and of course the most powerful of all, the Aztec Empire.

After Christopher Columbus “discovered” America, the Spaniards carried out expeditions to find gold and riches from these faraway lands.   In 1521, about 500 Spanish soldiers arrived in Mexico, headed by an ambitious man: Hernán Cortés.  At this time, the Aztecs had built a great empire that ruled over all Mesoamérica. So the Spaniards decided to direct their attacks towards them.

The indigenous nations that were under the Aztec rule were tired of the physical and economic hardships imposed upon them by this empire.  This circumstance made them think that by helping the Conquerors defeat the Aztecs, they would be better off.  So they decided to aid the Spaniards.

This is how the Conquest of what is now Mexico began.

On the 13th of August 1521, Cuauhtémoc, the last Aztec emperor was captured. The indigenous allies of the Spaniards raided Tenochtitlan, capital of the Aztec empire.

They didn’t know it at the time, but they had been liberated from one oppressor and fallen in the hands of a much more powerful authoritarian.

This was the beginning of three centuries of Spanish rule. The new colony was namedNueva España, New Spain.

The years that followed were devastating. The conquerors brought with them diseases unknown to the natives. The epidemics that broke out as well as the merciless workload imposed upon the natives dramatically diminished the Indian population.   There were approximately 20 million Indians inhabiting this territory before the Conquest, and after just one century of Spanish rule there were only 1 million left!

The Beautiful Face of Courage: The Adelitas Women of the Mexican Revolution


They looked for water and food for the soldiers, built barricades to protect them in the evening, healed the sick, carried the weapons. They went on foot to the sidewalk, following the battalions where husbands, fathers, brothers, and lovers participated. They are the soldaderas of the Mexican Revolution (1910), better known as “the adelitas”, and participated in all the sides that made up this armed movement: Maderistas, Zapatistas, Villistas, Carrancistas.

 
Many times they had the worst part of the war and some leaders never acknowledged their commitment to the cause. Most of them are anonymous faces and their drama barely appears in the history books. However, some of them were immortalized in the corridos, songs of the time that compiled the experiences of the Revolution.

 
In these corridos their leaders were portrayed, events were narrated and the female presence was reflected in the battalions, always faithful, brave, cheerful, self-sacrificing and even flirtatious, with a personality so typical that it inspired the rest of the group. They even had the courage to dance and find fun in hiding.

 
The photographs of the movement reveal their appearance: dressed almost always in their petticoats or long skirts, wearing scarves and hats. Other times they are practically disguised as men, only their eyes give them away. They rarely appear smiling. Their look had become stern and distrustful, however, they are seen preparing food, guarding their children in their rebozo, sharing the fate of the soldiers.

 

 The “adelitas” or “soldaderas” also occupied more strategic roles as spies, distributing propaganda or clandestine mail agents. Despite this, there were privileges to those who could not access, for example, horseback riding. Even when pregnant, they had to follow the troops walking. If their partner died, they could take their place in the battalion and this was how they could get to occupy military ranks. The greatest rank for a woman was that of a colonel, although almost all the troops had a woman who distinguished herself by her leadership and was the one who coordinated the rest of the women.

 
About how many women participated in the Revolution, there are no precise figures. You have to immerse yourself in the archives to know the names of these brave women and the tragedies they suffered: Petra Guerrera, Hermila Galindo, Juana Belén Gutiérrez, Coronela Caritina …

 
One of the saddest events occurred in 1916, at the Santa Rosalía station in Camargo, Chihuahua, when Villa snatched the train station from the Carrancistas. Ninety women Carrancistas were arrested and one of them shot Villa. Enraged, the “Centaur of the North” demanded to know who had fired at him. As none responded, they were all shot.

 
The “adelitas” or soldaderas were also part of the coveted booty in the clashes between the various revolutionary groups. They were wanted to rape them and thus disgrace the enemy. Thus, these brave and loyal women do not differ much from what other women have been in the wars of the world: consolation and relief, soldiers of a lesser category, cannon fodder. But they have also known to be the most beautiful face of courage.