Paola, a DF native, and having lived here nearly all her life, had never actually been to the Zocalo for the Independence Day celebrations. Until yesterday. It was my first time too, but something I had to do before I leave Mexico DF. I didn’t really ‘get’ Independence Day when I first arrived in Mexico. What’s the big deal? We went round Paola’s dad’s house, with a few other guests, had something to eat, watched the President cry ‘Viva!’ a few times, and went home. People asked me when the UK celebrates its independence. Maybe some didn’t ‘get’ me, and still believe we Brits cheer for the flag on April 1st.
I ‘got’ what the deal is in 2006 when we all went off to Huichapan, Hidalgo, and stood in the square with thousands and thousands of locals who had made their way there from all the surrounding villages. We shouted ‘Viva!’ with them. And I definitely ‘got’ it. It’s been a highlight of the annual calendar for me ever since. And until this year, ever since has always meant a few days away in Huichapan.
Not this year. This year we went to the real deal and stood and cheered with tens of thousands. Security was tight to get into the Zocalo, with police manning X-ray machines and conducting bag searched. I suspect security is always there, but this year President Calderon is particularly unpopular with a few fairly violent groups who are all armed to the teeth.
We spent an hour wandering around the square, taking in the lights, sounds and atmosphere before heading up on to the terrace of the youth hostel behind the Cathedral. Darned Cathedral. Totally blocked our view of the National Palace. But then the tickets cost just 200 pesos and included five tacos and a free shot of tequila. Versus the 1600 peso plus tickets of other hotels and restaurants with a clear terrace view. The most important feature of our terrace, and any terrace utilised for paying customers, was that it had a plastic roof cover. Because it rained. All night.
But that didn’t spoil the evening in the slightest. We ate, watched the fireworks, gazed at the lights, saw the Sound and Light show on a big screen and shouted. Viva Mexico! And all the chaps who made it happen. Roll on next year and the big 200th anniversary celebrations. Click here to see my photos on Flickr.