It’s almost time to kick off Hispanic Heritage Month — and what better way to do so than with an independence day celebration. The barbecuing summer days of the Fourth of July in the U.S. might be behind us, but in Mexico, Central America, and Puerto Rico, the party is just getting started. Trading in the stripes and stars for reds, greens, whites, and blues, here’s how these countries celebrate.
Because we all know Mexican independence is not Cinco de Mayo, right?! — Though we won’t stop you from celebrating with some tequila or mezcal — Mexican independence from Spain is celebrated on September 16. Mexico goes all out in its celebrations with different traditions to satisfy all kinds of partygoers.
For the history buff, you can check out the live streaming of Mexico City’s Independence Day celebrations at the zocalo on Univision. The start of the Mexican Independence movement is attributed to Miguel Hidalgo’s Grito de Dolores in 1810, as he united the Mexican people in fighting against centuries of colonial Spanish rule. Each year cities around Mexico keep up with this tradition known as El Grito with chants of “Viva Mexico” from town squares.
For the foodie, celebrate Mexican independence with a Mexican flag inspired chile en nogada. Legend has it that this popular dish was created by a group of nuns at the Santa Monica Convent in Puebla immediately following the declaration of independence in 1891. And when else would you have the chance to try the sweet, savory, and spicy combination of a cheesy, pomegranate topped pepper?
If you’re more of a straight up disco queen, there are definitely parties for you. Mexico starts the celebrations early—late in the night of September 15. The zocalos, streets, and nightclubs will be packed. Just make sure to avoid that cruda once the actual independence day arrives. And you won’t miss out if you want to join in the fun in the US—with celebrations in L.A., New York, or Chicago.
Torch Passing Through Central America
Based on a shared colonial history, the nations of Central America — Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica — all celebrate their independence on the same day. After centuries of rule by Spain, the people of Central America leveraged political unrest in Spain and the independence movement in Mexico to fight for their own independence. A joint Central American federation was founded on September 15, 1821, though by 1840 disagreements across states led to the formation of the modern day national borders.
Traditions today trace back to when Central America existed as a single federation. The former neighboring states join together for a country to country independence torch passing ceremony. It begins in Guatemala on September 9 and concludes in Cartago, Costa Rica — the first Spanish settlement in Central America and initial capital of the Central American federation — on September 14.
Parades in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica
The celebrations themselves vary slightly by country, but the party is in full force in each. In Guatemala, children take the spotlight in colorful and musical parades—not a bad way to end the Guatemalan school year! And you won’t go hungry during the celebrations. There are plenty of dobladas, tamales, and platanos to go around. School parades are just as much of the focus in Honduras, with some Catarchos themed parties (the Honduran national soccer team) thrown in for good measure.
Parades in El Salvador include high-ranking government officials and the military, with flags prominently displayed in front of houses as a symbol of orgullo salvadoreño. In Nicaragua, the entire month of September is patrimonial month. People begin hanging flags outside their homes and their festive parades around town begin on September 1. There’s a special commemoration of the Battle of San Jacinto on September 14.
Costa Rica’s parades are a bit different — with a focus on elaborately decorated lanterns. The tradition dates back to the revolution itself. Legend has it that Guatemalan activist María Dolores Bedoya rallied her compatriots on the evening of September 14 — lantern in hand — as the catalyst for the signing of the independence treaties on September 15. How’s that for a mujer independiente?
Though now part of the United States, Grito de Lares is celebrated in Puerto Rico to commemorate its first attempt for liberation from Spain. Though not an official holiday, there are still celebrations with parades, floral offerings to the revolutionary heroes, and an homage to the original design of the Puerto Rican flag.