GOOD

Put on a Fake Mustache for Mexico’s Independence Day

Each year in mid-September, Mexicans gleefully celebrate their nation—and it’s a far cry from Cinco de Mayo.

Illustration by Matt Chase

Just before midnight on September 15, the president of Mexico will speak from a balcony overlooking thousands of revelers in Mexico City's famed zocalo, or main plaza. The speech, given by every Mexican president every year, will be replicated in small towns across the nation, and ends with what has to be one of the largest call-and-responses in the world: The Cry of Dolores (El Grito de Dolores), which consists of various rounds of "¡viva!"—effectively "long live"—and ends with "¡viva Mexico!" The president will then host a midnight dinner, and the rest of the nation will party into the morning of September 16. This is Mexican Independence Day.


In contrast, Cinco de Mayo, which commemorates a battle against the French in the town of Puebla, isn't even a work holiday in Mexico. This inevitably disappoints foreign tourists, who come for a party and find none. The 16th of September (Diez y Seis) is what they're really looking for. In the weeks leading up to the big event, every public space is scrubbed, every statue shined, and every monument hung with banners in the colors of the modern flag: green, white, and red. At stoplights, the peddlers of snacks and pirated merchandise switch to patriotic tchotchkes, and soon every other car has a Mexican flag suction-cupped to the window. Then come the vendors of silly costumes and, naturally, fake mustaches.

While Cinco de Mayo is a crass, drunken, U.S.-based celebration, one thing it gets right is the accessories. Citizens south of the U.S. border celebrate independence by dressing up as Mexican stereotypes—the bigger and more outrageous the sombrero, the better. Everyone gets into the spirit. A cab driver, a restaurant hostess, and a small child on the street are all likely to have the flag's colors streaked on their faces and wear big, bushy faux mustaches.

Chile en nogada. Photo via (cc) Flickr user Daniel Dionne.

After the late-night Grito, revelers in the plazas will pay mariachi groups to sing nostalgic songs. What the president might serve is chile en nogada, a seasonal dish of green poblano pepper stuffed with ground pork, bathed in a white walnut sauce and sprinkled with red pomegranate seeds. This is the dish of Independence Day and a culinary gem, though it doesn't fit with the popular concept of unsophisticated Mexican cuisine. Neither do the historical figures central to this battle. The men primarily credited with launching the movement for Mexican independence are Ignacio Allende, Juan Aldama and especially Miguel Hidalgo—who fought against Spain not on behalf of indigenous Mexicans, but on behalf of criollos, a people of Spanish descent born in Mexico and often members of the social elite.

Don Miguel Hidalgo y Castillo. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Hidalgo was a priest in the town of Dolores, north of Mexico City, where he is credited with shouting the Grito de Delores on September 16, 1810, kicking off an 11-year struggle for independence. He is often pictured in his papal collar, with tufts of white hair around his ears, hoisting a flag in the air. However, it's not the modern flag of Mexico he brandishes, but a predecessor that features the Virgin of Guadalupe, a woman in a blue shawl ringed in yellow spikes of light with pink roses at her feet. The image still lends itself well to pop art, and Mexico's young design scene embraces her on hoodies and stencil art. The American Apparel store in Mexico City at one point had an especially large neon Virgin on the storefront.

Children re-enact El Grito de Dolores. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Mexico's young people—and Mexico's population is proportionately very young—are increasingly embracing their cultural identity throughout the entire year, rather than just on one particular national holiday. Witness the rise of mezcal or pulque, a thick alcohol made from fermented agave. These drinks, once considered low-class and unrefined, are now served in hipster bars across Mexico City, where clientele arrive on fixed gear bicycles to mingle under Edison light bulbs. Mexico's future, like its past, is a mixture of cultures.

Independence Day is a celebration of sombreros and silliness in Mexico, but it recognizes an important spirit, one of pride, joy, and resilience. Too often, news of Mexico in the foreign press focuses on the country’s negative, violent aspects and dissuades travelers, especially families, from straying off the beaten path. While Independence Day in the zocalo is a zoo, smaller town plazas, such as historic Coyoacan in the south of Mexico City, are easier to navigate and offer a more intimate experience. Foreigners are welcome, sombreros are easily acquired, and everyone, no matter their level of Spanish, can manage to shout "¡Viva!"

Celebrating Mexico's independence in D.F. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Articles
NHM Vienna/Hans Reschreiter

Wealth inequality has been a hot topic of discussion as of late, but it's something that's occurred all throughout history. Class structure is a complicated issue, especially when you consider that haves and have nots have been in existence for over 4,000 years.

A study published in Science took a look at over 100 late Neolithic and early Bronze Age skeletons found in a burial site in southern Germany. The study "shed light on the complexity of social status, inheritance rules, and mobility during the Bronze Age." Partly by looking at their teeth and the artifacts they were buried with, researchers were able to discover that wealth inequality existed almost 4,000 years ago. "Our results reveal that individual households lasting several generations consisted of a high-status core family and unrelated low-status individuals, a social organization accompanied by patrilocality and female exogamy, and the stability of this system over 700 years," the study said.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture

Climate change means our future is uncertain, but in the meantime, it's telling us a lot about our past. The Earth's glaciers are melting at an alarming rate, but as the ice dwindles, ancient artifacts are being uncovered. The Secrets of the Ice project has been surveying the glaciers on Norway's highest mountains in Oppland since 2011. They have found a slew of treasures, frozen in time and ice, making glacier archeologists, as Lars Pilø, co-director of Secrets of the Ice, put it when talking to CNN, the "unlikely beneficiaries of global warming."

Instead of digging, glacier archeologists survey the areas of melting ice, seeing which artifacts have been revealed by the thaw. "It's a very different world from regular archaeological sites," Pilø told National Geographic. "It's really rewarding work.

Keep Reading Show less

When former Pittsburgh Steelers' center Mike Webster committed suicide in 2002, his death began to raise awareness of the brain damage experienced by NFL football players. A 2017 study found that 99% of deceased NFL players had a degenerative brain disease known as CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy). Only one out of 111 former football players had no sign of CTE. It turns out, some of the risks of traumatic brain injury experienced by heavily padded adults playing at a professional level also exist for kids with developing brains playing at a recreational level. The dangers might not be as intense as what the adults go through, but it can have some major life-long consequences.

A new PSA put out by the Concussion Legacy Foundation raises awareness of the dangers of tackle football on developing brains, comparing it to smoking. "Tackle football is like smoking. The younger I start, the longer I am exposed to danger. You wouldn't let me smoke. When should I start tackling?" a child's voice can be heard saying in the PSA as a mother lights up a cigarette for her young son.

Keep Reading Show less
via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

On Tuesday morning, President Trump tweeted about some favorable economic numbers, claiming that annual household income is up, unemployment is low, and housing prices are high.

Now, just imagine how much better those numbers would be if the country wasn't mired in an economy-killing trade war with China, bleeding out trillion-dollar-a-year debts, and didn't suffer from chaotic leadership in the Oval Office?

At the end of tweet, came an odd sentence, "Impeach the Pres."

Keep Reading Show less
Politics

October is domestic violence awareness month and when most people think of domestic violence, they imagine mostly female victims. However, abuse of men happens as well – in both heterosexual and homosexual relationships. But some are taking it upon themselves to change all that.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture