Fiestas Patrias is much like the American 4th of July in that it celebrates the creation of an independent country free of their colonial masters. Mexico's celebration of independence doesn't celebrate the actual day of independence but the call to be an independent nation. On September 16, 1810 Father Miguel Hidalgo the parish priest of the small town of Dolores, issued his call for Mexicans to rise up and overthrow Spanish rule. This call for independence is known as "El Grito", the cry, and is widely celebrated all over Mexico today. Today it is simply rendered as "Mexicanos, Viva Mexico" and the crowds answer back with loud cries of "Viva Mexico" and much celebrating. In Mexico City the president gives the "El Grito" to thronged masses gathered in the Zocolo and the same act is repeated in small towns and big cities across Mexico. Today in Mexico the "El Grito" is delivered on Sept. 15 around 11 PM followed by a fireworks display and bands playing. The next day, Sept. 16, is given over to a grand fiesta.
The town of San Miguel de Allende, then known as San Miguel el Grande, played an important role in the early days of the rebellion. The town's most famous resident, Don Ignacio de Allende, a Captain in the Spanish army, played an important role in the conspiracy and leading the rebellion in the early days. The first target of the newly born revolution was to march on the town of San Miguel el Grande where Allende hoped to secure the support of his troops. Other citizens of San Miguel el Grande were also to play important roles in the rebellion. Since the town of San Miguel el Grande played such an important role in the early days of the movement towards Mexican
independence the present day residents take great pride in putting on a really grand fiesta to remember the those early days. The fiesta takes the form of a pageant in the streets of San Miguel de Allende where the events are reenacted in approximately the proper time line.
The early days of the Independence movement: In the early 1800's in the larger tows of Mexico there were literary clubs where intellectuals gathered to discuss the latest in books and culture. In many places they became centers for the discussion of breaking free from Spain. The Literary Club of Queretaro was particularly active in plotting the overthrow of Spain. Allende was the president of the club and Hidalgo was also member. They had been planning to start the rebellion in December but their plot was
discovered by the Spanish authorities. On Sept. 15 Allende hurried to Dolores to warn Hidalgo that their plot had been discovered. Hidalgo decided that the struggle must begin right away. In the early morning hours of Sept. 16, 1810 Hidalgo called together his parishioners and issued his now famous call for the people to rise up and overthrow Spain. This call to arms became the "El Grito" that is now celebrated all over Mexico. Hidalgo's "army" was composed of Indians, and lower class Mestizos mostly armed with clubs and machetes, none with any military training. That morning, some 600 strong, the marched to the Santuario de Atotonilco, a long time shrine and pilgrimage center, where they took a banner with the image of the Virgin De Guadalupe on it and this became the battle flag of the revolutionary movement. After Atotonilco the insurgents moved on to nearby San Miguel el Grande where Allende hoped to recruit his military unit in the insurrection. All these events of the first few days are acted out in the Fiestas Patrias.
While September 16 is the day that is celebrated in Fiestas Patrias the actual Fiesta takes 3 days in San Miguel de Allende with lectures and presentations both preceding and following the Fiesta. On Sept. 14 the Conspirators cavalcade from Queretaro come riding into town and putting on a pretty good horse show in the streets. Sept. 15 there are various events including an athletic completion, in the evening there is a dance performance of traditional Mexican dances. The big event happens around 11 PM when the Mayor delivers the "El Grito" address to the gathered crowds in the Jardín followed by a grand pyrotechnic display with both aerial rockets and the burning of the traditional Mexican Castillos and much celebrating by the crowds. Sept. 16 the Fiesta continues with a military parade and the re-enactment of Hidalgo's insurgents entering the city. In the evening there are more dance performances and another fireworks display.