200th birthdays are kind of a big deal.

Plaza Zaragosa, looking rather lonely. Expect tumbleweed.
Plaza Zaragosa, looking rather lonely. Expect tumbleweed.

Finding proper housing arrangements is turning out to be a bit of an adventure.

To back track a little, as it stands I don’t have a birth certificate ( it had to be requested from my state, Quintana Roo which is at the tip of the tail of Mexico), which means I can’t get any form of I.D. so right now I don’t really exist here. There’s an element of fun to that, but I feel that my self esteem might be helped a little by establishing myself a national from somewhere.

Anyway, I got to do Independence day here, more particularly, ‘El Grito’. Nothing says patriotism like singing the national anthem with 30 thousand other Mexicans.

Here in Mexico Independence day is a mix between New Year’s, Halloween and your 4th of July. On the night of Sept 15th, locals gather at the Palacio de Govierno (which translates to Governmental Palace) and see their local government authority (in our case the brand, spakin’ new Mayor) say a few words, and then do ‘El Grito’ from the palace balcony. It goes something like this:

Mayor w/ mustache: ¡Viva Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla!
Mexican people below: ¡Viva!
Mayor: ¡ Viva Jose Maria Morelos!
Mexicans: ¡Viva!

(This is done with a few other founding fathers, a few more times)

Mayor w/ mustache: ¡Viva Mexico!
Mexicans: ¡Viva!

That last part is done 3 times, while the mayor rings a bell. In Mexico City they do the really big one, where hundreds of thousands  gather to see the President of Mexico do it. This is done at around midnight, and then we all sing the Mexican National Anthem (which is the most beautiful anthem I have heard- I mean, how beautiful is it to say that your eternal destiny was written by the very finger of God? I’m a sucker for that kind of imagery), and watch fireworks.

I was very excited to get to see one in person because I’d never gotten the chance. I went down with Lisa and Pepe Velarde, and Hermana Velarde, Pepe’s mom. They came to pick me up from a ward party that I was at, and then we went down to Plaza Zaragoza, the main plaza here.

We ended up parking at the home of the Velarde’s and walking to the plaza because it was a 7 block walk, and Hna. Velarde had mentioned that our probability of finding a place to park closer to the plaza was right up there with pigs flying. On our way there, I looked down and realized I had managed to put on my bad idea jeans- along with a cute pair of high heels to accessorize. Now, I am not against heels. They’re cute. I like feeling cute. But wearing open toe anything to a place where there will be 30 thousand excited people increases your probabilities of returning without toes. Additionally, I seem to be gifted with the ability to trip on nothing, so high heels + klutziness = my imminent death.

While making peace with that, Hna. Velarde told us about a transvestite that lived down the street in the calmest manner possible. A side note about Hna. Velarde: you could not hope to meet a more righteous, kind and jovial person. Seriously, she’s this soft spoken, eternally smiling woman who’s very open about sharing the gospel. Plus, she has a sweet tooth, which makes her an insta BFF.

We were going to meet Hno. Velarde down at the plaza, and on our way there I asked Hna. Velarde if she was excited to see it, because I was about to karate chop something from the sheer expectation. Hna. Velarde started telling me that generally they saw it on TV and that she hadn’t been to a Grito in years. Then, in the most casual tone you could imagine, she said that the only reason they were coming was because of me- they just wanted to share in it. Man, talk about a hug to the heart- how kind was it off them to go out of their comfort zone to indulge a practically foreign girl? Bless their hearts.

We arrived at the plaza and it seemed like a scene from a movie. The plaza was rivers of people, and in the main door to the cathedral stood Hno. Velarde, waiting for us.

We all met up, and decided to grab a bite because we were all pretty hungry. Before heading there, Hno. Velarde looked at me and said “Azul, this is your night. We’re here for you. These are your people- take in the sounds, the sights and the smells, because they are all for you tonight.”

Have you ever had those moments as a kid where your parents, or grandparents just pulled you aside and said something that made you feel as if the entire world was living, breathing, magic, painted all on your behalf? I hope you have; I hope every kid gets a chance like that. Hno. Velarde gave me that again and I was so thankful to him for that.

We went and ate. And ate. And ate. Honestly, there was so much food, and Hno. Velarde kept bringing stuff for us to try and at one point I remember asking Lisa “How do people who don’t live here ever eat?!” because honestly, that food was the most delicious you have ever tasted. It’s like winning the gastronomic lottery in every bite. No joke.

Anyway, we went and did El Grito, gathered amongst thousands of our fellow citizens. Hno. Velarde kept getting closer and closer to the palace and kept trying to find the best spot for me to see the fireworks and the mayor. In the end we mostly heard the mayor but were in a prime spot for the fireworks.

Let me say a thing or two about fireworks here: We don’t have the same restrictions or safety rules that they do in the states. I sort of understood this, but I thought I’d clarify.

The fireworks display was pretty awesome- I’ve never seen fireworks that close (though nothing really dangerous from where we stood), and the songs playing were so loud and clear that had I died there of some sort of heart failure, I would’ve been revived on the spot from the mere vibrations. It probably didn’t help that we were right by the speakers. I kept holding my chest because it felt as if my heart was about to be thumped out of me.

After it was all said and done, the 5 of us had to make like 5 year olds and hold on to each other for dear life in order to not get lost. There was an insane current of people and you just got dragged along, so it helped that we had an goal in sight (the churro stand) and that Pepe was leading.

We were planning on stuffed churros as a parting snack and let me tell you something about stuffed churros- they are the best. Bar none, they are the most delicious things to ever happen to my mouth and that’s saying something because food and I are buddies. But if heaven has a flavor, it is definitely a fresh made, cajeta stuffed churro.

No doubt about it.

After coming home, I noticed a good amount of gray dust on me- this turned out to be ashes. From the fireworks.

A few notes of interest:

– There was something really cool about being out at midnight and seeing families having dinner together all over the place- BBQs, and nice family gatherings in back yards and homes. It was really comforting.

– I saw one of those mango-on-a-stick things I used to love as kid (te acuerdas mami?)! I didn’t buy one though…

– I got an interesting lesson on the greenery here- the huge, leafy trees are “Yucatecos”.

– Man, there are so many plumeria flowers!

– There was a vendor guy selling mustaches- the Pancho Villa ones. As second witness to the fact that I was wearing bad idea jeans: I didn’t buy one.

– Call me the most fortunate girl ever: I got two Independence days this year in the form of 4th of July and El Grito! Holler!

Well, I love you all- and will write again soon!

Azul

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