Guide to Mexican Independence Day

Mexican Independence Day


TripSavvy / Theresa Chiechi

Mexico's independence from Spain is celebrated every year on September 16 to commemorate the beginning of the Mexican War of Independence in 1810. However, Mexican patriotic spirit is embodied in a multitude of popular traditions celebrated over the months of September and October.

From the beginning of September, Mexico's streets and buildings are festooned with an explosion of green, white, and red, but the main events occur when crowds gather in town squares across the nation to shout "Viva México!" on the evening of September 15, and again on September 16, when you'll find parades and other civic celebrations.

Mexican Independence Day decoration
Suzanne Barbezat / Getty Images

When Is Mexican Independence Day?

Some people outside of Mexico may confuse Mexican Independence Day with Cinco de Mayo (May 5), but that is a different celebration (and a much less important one in Mexico) that commemorates Mexico's victory over France at the Battle of Puebla in 1862 during the Franco-Mexican War.

Mexican Independence Day, on the other hand, is a celebration of the start of the Mexican War of Independence and is also referred to in Mexico by the date of the event: el dieciséis de Septiembre (the 16th of September). It is one of Las Fiestas Patrias (the patriotic festivals) and is celebrated on the night of September 15 and all day on September 16 each year in cities across Latin America.

This is one of the most important fiestas of the year in Mexico, and the whole month of September is referred to as el mes de la patria (month of the homeland).

The Oaxaca Zocalo on September 15
Suzanne Barbezat / Getty Images

El Grito de Dolores

Mexico's War of Independence officially began in the early hours of September 16, 1810, when the priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla rang the church bell and cried out to the townspeople to take up arms and rise up against the Spanish Crown.

This event became known as ​el grito de Dolores (the cry of Dolores), named after the town in Guanajuato state where it took place. Within no time, the priest had assembled a large and unruly but resolute mob to march with him toward ​Mexico City, sparking the uprising against Spanish rule.

Each year, cities across Mexico commemorate this historic day by yelling "Viva México!" and reciting the Grito, which varies depending on where you are in the country. Some of the most popular places to celebrate El Grito in Mexico include Mexico City's main square, the Zocalo, where the Mexican president initiates the Grito from the balcony of the Palacio Nacional; Dolores Hidalgo, known as the Cradle of Mexican Independence, where the original cry took place; and San Miguel de Allende, the birthplace of one of the leaders of the independence Movement Ignacio Allende.

Colorful mural painted by David Leonardo mural Depicts war of independence from Spain 1810
Gale Beery / Getty Images

The Mexican War of Independence

The Mexican War of Independence was an armed conflict between the people of Mexico and Spanish colonial authorities. The movement was initiated by criollos (Mexican-born people of Spanish descent), with mestizos (people of mixed indigenous and European heritage) and native people joining in the struggle. However, each of these groups had different motives and goals.

The war lasted more than a decade and ended with the signing of the Treaty of Córdoba on August 24, 1821, ending three centuries of Spanish rule.

Mexico cowboy flag
mnuschke / Pixabay

How to Celebrate Mexican Independence Day

Mexican Independence Day is celebrated with fireworks, flags, food, and parades. On the night of September 15, the cry of Dolores is re-enacted by local politicians in the public squares of most cities and towns throughout the country.

On September 16, there are parades and civic ceremonies commemorating Mexico's independence. September 16 is a national holiday in Mexico, so all schools, banks, and government offices are closed. For some fun ideas on how to honor Mexico's independence, check out ​Ways to Celebrate Mexican Independence Day Guide.

Mexico's flag, the coat of arms, and the national anthem are Mexico's national symbols (los símbolos patrios), and they feature prominently in Independence Day celebrations and decorations. Tourists can purchase their own patriotic souvenirs from street vendors and markets in cities across the country, and participants in the Mexican Independence Day festivities are encouraged to wear traditional garb and colors on the Mexican flag.

Chiles en Nogada
Masa Assassin / Flickr 

Patriotic Mexican Foods

Wearing red, green, and white and attending street festivals and parades aren't the only ways to celebrate Mexican Independence Day. Visitors should also take the opportunity to sample some of Mexico's favorite dishes during this patriotic holiday.

Chiles en Nogada is a Mexican dish that has the colors of the Mexican flag, and it's a favorite food for this holiday. Pozole, a soup made of hominy and pork, is also a popular food for Independence Day celebrations. As for drinks, tequila and mezcal fit the bill, but for a really festive touch, try a Mexican flag shooter.

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