How to Celebrate Mexican Independence Day Like a Local

Dolores Hidalgo

The Fourth of July has come and gone. But, Mexican Independence Day, September 16, is still on the horizon. It marks the day in 1810 when the priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla called on Mexicans to rebel against Spain’s colonial rule.

Hidalgo’s words are now known as the Grito de Dolores, or Cry of Dolores, for the town (now Dolores Hidalgo) where the cry was uttered. Mexico did eventually gain independence in 1821. And, the grito remains an integral part of Independence Day celebrations.

Officials all over Mexico reenact the grito, chanting “Viva Mexico, Viva Mexico, Viva Mexico!” at 11 p.m. on September 15. In Mexico City, the president rings a bell at the National Palace and repeats the grito to the crowds assembled at the Plaza de la Constitución, or Zócalo. It’s one of the largest public squares in the world. Some 500,000 strong, the crowd chants back "¡Viva!" as names of revolutionaries are read off.

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Mexico City

“It’s a huge deal. Most people think Cinco de Mayo is Independence Day, but it isn’t. You have to think about the Zócalo, which is almost the birthplace of Mexico. You have hundreds of thousands there from all over Mexico. The president comes out and shouts, ‘Viva Mexico.’ It’s a big party,” Hope Smith, owner of Born To Travel, tells Travel Agent.

For sheer authenticity, the Mexican-born Smith recommends a trip to the town of Dolores Hidalgo in Guanajuato State.

“If I were going to do it, I’d want to go back to my roots, and go to the town of Dolores Hidalgo itself. It’s a very small town. I’m sure they ring the bell and celebrate with such pride there. You’re in the town where the grito was first done,” said Smith.

If clients are heading to Mexico during the Independence Day holiday, they’re in for a treat. Festivities and events take place country wide. Hotels typically get in on the festivities, as well.

Barceló properties, for example, are getting into the spirit.

In Zihuatanejo, celebrations begin the night of September 15 at City Hall. Fireworks and other celebrations ensue. The next day, an Independence Day Parade takes place downtown. At the nearby Barceló Ixtapa, guests will enjoy a Night of Grito party that includes mariachi bands, dancers, and traditional Mexican cuisine.

Guests of Barceló Puerto Vallarta on Mismaloya beach can take part in a street party, fireworks and other festivities in the city’s main square on September 15. The next day, military and local bands lead a patriotic parade.

In Cancún, Independence Day celebrations take place on Avenida Tulum. Thousands gather at midnight on Sept. 15 to hear the grito and ringing of the bell. Fireworks, folk dancing, mariachi music and partying follow.

The Barceló Maya Grand Resort (comprised of Barceló Maya Beach, Barceló Maya Caribe, Barceló Maya Colonial and Barceló Maya Tropical) shifts to full celebration mode on September 15 and 16. Activities include a parade, mariachi music, a fiesta and traditional local cuisine. Clients should try Chiles en Nogada, a stuffed poblano, walnut cream and pomegranate dish that is an Independence Day favorite.

Barcelo Maya Grand Resort Suite

Nearby, celebrations will also take place on Fifth Avenue in Playa del Carmen. The official festival takes place in front of City Hall.

Patriotic reverie is traditionally on tap at Bahia Principe Riviera Maya Resort, as well.

The 3,226-room complex includes four hotels. Two of them, Luxury Bahia Principe Akumal and Luxury Bahia Principe Sian Ka’an, are part of the brand’s luxury Don Pablo Collection. Grand Bahia Principe Tulum and Grand Bahia Principe Coba are family-friendly.

The resort features a golf club designed by Robert Trent Jones II. It’s renowned for scenery that includes Mayan jungle, cenotes and lakes. The Hacienda Doña Isabel is a central gathering spot, offering craft and boutique shops, as well as bars and nightlife options.

Independence Day celebrations at Bahia Principe Riviera Maya Resort last year

Helen Montijano, vice president, sales and marketing for Canada and the U.S., emphasizes the importance of agents.

“We’ve recently launched the Bahia Rewards Loyalty Program. It’s our way to say, ‘thanks for the support’. It’s being well accepted. Agents can get free nights and discounts and we’re working on a certification program. We’ve got very good specials for the fall and various holidays. We’ve even got early bird promotions for 2018,” Montijano tells Travel Agent.

Bahia’s parent company is Spanish, but the brand’s emphasis is international.

“The U.S., of course, is a big market for us. But, we also have Canada, the U.K. and lots of Europeans. In all our properties, it’s so important to provide the experience of the country. Our Hacienda Doña Isabel entertainment area provides that. If you don’t leave the resort, at least you have a feel for Mexico,” said Montijano.

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