On Mexican Independence Day, few reasons to shout Viva Mexico!

mexicans celebrating mexican independence day

Mexican Independence day is Sept. 16, but the country is celebrating its bicentennial in the shadow of escalating drug violence. Image: CC eddieq/Flickr

Mexican Independence Day is Sept. 16. On Mexican Independence Day 2010, Mexico celebrates 200 years of independence. A common misconception in the U.S. is that Mexican Independence Day is May 5: Cinco de Mayo. On May 5, stories in the media abound, ranging from tequila recipes to the Battle of Puebla — the real reason Cinco de Mayo is celebrated. Sept. 16 is Mexican Independence Day because Mexico’s 10-year war for independence from Spain began on Sept. 16, 1810. Mexico has come a long way in 200 years. Yet in 2010, the country has little to celebrate as it battles corruption, human rights issues and drug violence.

Celebration in the shadow of drug violence

President Felipe Calderon is celebrating Mexican Independence Day Sept. 16 with a $40 million extravaganza in Mexico City. USA Today reports that the two-day bicentennial bash features laser shows, fireworks and music. The Mexican government hopes the party will lift the people’s spirits despite a recession and bloody war against narcoterrorists. Security is tight amid fears that drug cartels will attack the festivities. Two years ago, narcoterrorists threw grenades into the crowd during a Mexican Independence Day festival in the city of Morelia. Seven people were killed and 132 were wounded. Since a military campaign on Mexican drug cartels began in December 2006, more than 22,000 people have died in drug violence, according to the Reforma  newspaper.

Most Mexicans resigned over bicentennial

As Mexico prepares for the traditional “grito,” or shout-out of “Viva Mexico!” on Wednesday night, the country’s historians, politicians and artists agree that the country may be in deep trouble. The Washington Post reports that Mexicans are still reeling from the massacre of 72 illegal migrants from Central and South America in northern Mexico last month. Mexico’s top immigration official resigned this week over the killings. In a poll published last week in Reforma, 67 percent of Mexico City residents said they felt little or no excitement about the bicentennial. Nearly six in 10 said the money spent is being wasted. Anonymous e-mails are urging Mexicans not to participate in the government-sponsored celebrations. Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, defeated by Calderon in a disputed 2006 election, will host his own celebration a few blocks away from Calderon’s. Public events in other cities have been canceled or scaled back, over fears of narcoterrorism.

And now the good news

Even though U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said last week that Mexico resembles the drug-racked Colombia of 20 years ago, the news isn’t all bad. The Associated Press reports that over all, Mexico’s murder rate is 14 per 100,000, far below the average for Latin America. Upper-middle class Mexicans are much like their American neighbors, with iPhones, modern apartments, higher education and smaller families. Strong grass-roots movements deal with issues like crime, human rights and the environment that were unheard of 25 years ago. In the aftermath of the worst recession since the 1930s, Mexico has stable government finances. There is also a genuinely independent and accountable Supreme Court.

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