This week marks the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month where we remember Independence Day in many countries throughout Latin America: Chile, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, and Nicaragua. Each of them gained their independence from Spain in the early 1800’s. One of the last countries to gain its independence from Spain was Morocco which needs our prayers in these days after the devastating earthquake.
Of all these countries, perhaps Mexico has some of the most interesting traditions. Their independence celebration begins on the 15th at 11pm with the “grito” to commemorate the cry of Dolores, Dolores being the city where the priest Fr Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla rang the church bell, (which they still ring today). After the bell rings the President reads the names of the fallen heroes from the 10 years battle for independence, shouts “Viva Mexico” (long live Mexico) 3 times which is followed by the National Anthem.
Fr Hildago did not rally against the institution of the monarchy, as we did, but rather cried out against bad government. More interestingly, Fr Hidalgo called for a defense of the Catholic faith. Whereas it is not clear of his exact words, one popular recounting has him saying,
“My children: a new dispensation comes to us today. Will you receive it? Will you free yourselves? Will you recover the lands stolen three hundred years ago from your forefathers by the hated Spaniards? We must act at once… Will you defend your religion and your rights as true patriots? Long live Our Lady of Guadalupe! …”
What is most beautiful about Fr Hidalgo’s call to independence is that God and the Catholic faith is still the foundation of that call. I believe even as a non-Mexican we are called to hear the grito, called to defend our religion here in the US and in Mexico, called to stay close to our Blessed Mother. Unlike Fr Hidalgo. I don’t think death to everyone in government or to Spain is the answer, especially since we have Spaniards in our parish and on our pastoral team with Fr Jose. Today’s grito must embrace the best of our faith and that is fighting for justice with love.
Celebrations in Mexico follow with parades, parties, folkloric dances. and a feast on chiles en nogada, tamales, posole, and mole, most of which we had at our Festival of Nations. This is a day when the vibrancy of Mexico is on full display. We will get a taste of this here in Springfield Sun Sept 17 with the Fiesta Hispana at Acompañarte at 1530 S Glenstone from 2pm until 7pm. Like our Festival, there will be food, music, cultural dances, and time for us to celebrate our own grito for the faith, for Mary, for a chance to be one family.
With a heart for Mission,