Mexican Independence Day, celebrated on September 16th, commemorates the start of the Mexican War of Independence in 1810. This important holiday marks Mexico’s independence from Spanish rule and is celebrated with parades, festivals, food, dance, and music. As an educator, Mexican Independence Day is a great opportunity to teach students about Mexican history and culture. Here are some key questions and answers about how to teach Mexican Independence Day:
What is Mexican Independence Day?
Mexican Independence Day is celebrated every year on September 16th. It marks the day in 1810 when Catholic priest Miguel Hidalgo issued the call for revolution against Spanish rule, which eventually led to Mexico’s independence in 1821. This historic event is known as El Grito de Dolores.
Why is teaching about Mexican Independence Day important?
Teaching students about Mexican Independence Day provides an opportunity to learn about Mexican history and culture. Students can gain appreciation for Mexico’s independence struggle and its traditions. It also allows students to make connections between events in Mexican and American history.
What are some key events and people related to Mexico’s independence?
Some key events and people related to Mexico’s independence include:
- Miguel Hidalgo – Catholic priest who issued the call for revolution on September 16, 1810 in Dolores, Mexico
- El Grito de Dolores – “The Cry of Dolores,” Hidalgo’s famous speech that sparked the revolution
- Jose Maria Morelos – Led the independence movement after Hidalgo’s execution in 1811
- Agustin de Iturbide – Military leader who formed an alliance with rebel leader Vicente Guerrero to fight for independence
- Treaty of Cordoba – Agreement signed in 1821 between Spain and Mexico recognizing Mexico’s independence
How can I teach students about Miguel Hidalgo and El Grito de Dolores?
To help students understand the significance of Miguel Hidalgo’s famous call to action, have them read a short summary of the speech and act out a dramatic reading in class. Students can take on the roles of Hidalgo and Mexican citizens. Also, show images of Hidalgo and discuss his leadership as a parish priest who helped ignite the revolutionary fervor.
What are some ways to discuss the 11-year war for independence?
When discussing the prolonged war, emphasize the important victories and defeats that eventually led to Mexico’s independence. Help students understand challenges such as infighting between rebel groups. Create a timeline of major battles, leaders, and events from 1810-1821. Analyze the roles key figures like Jose Maria Morelos played in carrying on the fight after Hidalgo’s death.
How can I connect this history to American independence?
Discuss similarities and differences between the independence movements in Mexico and the United States. Both involved wars against European colonial powers but had distinct timelines and leaders. Compare the roles of George Washington and Miguel Hidalgo as rebel leaders. Analyze how colonial life under Spanish rule influenced the movement differently than colonial America under the British.
Here are some engaging strategies and activities for teaching Mexican Independence Day:
Simulate El Grito de Dolores
Have students reenact Miguel Hidalgo’s famous “Cry of Dolores” speech. Assign roles for Hidalgo and various townspeople as he tries to rally support for rebellion. Discuss how the urgent tone and content of the speech aimed to ignite opposition against Spanish rule.
Create a Timeline
Use art materials, technology tools, or simple index cards to build an annotated timeline of major events in the Mexican independence movement from 1810 to 1821. Have students work in small groups to create segments of the timeline representing different eras and turning points.
Compare Perspectives Through Journaling
Have students write a series of journal entries from the perspectives of different figures during the war for independence. Suggested figures include a Mexican rebel soldier, a loyalist of Spanish rule, and an Indigenous villager impacted by the fighting. Discuss how the revolution was experienced and viewed differently based on status and role.
Design Informational Posters
In groups or individually, have students design posters, brochures, or digital presentations that describe important events, battles, leaders, and facts about the Mexican independence movement. Select the most engaging visuals and summaries to display in the classroom.
Read Historical Fiction
Assign excerpts from novels or short stories set during the Mexican revolution that portray fictional characters and scenarios inspired by the period. Use reading time to analyze the historical context and discuss the texts.
Watch Movies and Documentaries
Show age-appropriate films or documentaries about the Mexican revolution and independence. Analyze the narratives and discuss which historical facts and fictional elements are included. Ask students to identify key themes.
Research and Recreate Clothing, Food, Music
Have students research the clothing, food, music, and other cultural elements that represented life, injustices, and the fight for independence in early 19th century Mexico. Recreate cultural items to experience history.
Organize a debate around the independence question, with students speaking from perspectives like loyalists, rebels, clergy, townspeople etc. Alternately, debate whether the violent revolution was justified, considering ideals vs. realities.
How Mexican Independence Day is Celebrated
Understanding how modern Mexicans celebrate Independence Day helps students gain cultural appreciation. Discuss the significance of the following traditions:
Parades and Festivals – Many cities and towns in Mexico hold colorful parades on Independence Day with floats, costumes, and marching bands. Major celebrations take place in Mexico City at the Zocalo central plaza.
El Grito – The president of Mexico reenacts the “Cry of Dolores” at the National Palace in Mexico City on the night of September 15th, shouting ¡Viva México! Long live Mexico!
Fireworks and Bells – At 11 pm on September 15th, the Independence Day celebrations commence with the ringing of bells and setting off fireworks across Mexico.
Food – Traditional Independence Day foods include chiles en nogada (stuffed peppers with walnut sauce) and pozole stew. Families celebrate with cookouts and picnics.
Music and Dance – Mariachi bands play patriotic songs. Folk dances like los machetes are performed to celebrate the revolution.
Flags and Decorations – Streets, plazas, homes and businesses are decorated in green, white and red, the colors of the Mexican flag. Flags and banners are displayed proudly.
Here are some resources that can enrich your Mexican Independence Day lessons:
- Videos – Great for cues, mood setting, and visuals. Check out clips on YouTube from HISTORY and National Geographic.
- Online archives – View primary sources like Hidalgo’s speech at the Latin American Network Information Center.
- Art and murals – Diego Rivera’s famous murals depict key independence events and leaders. Display images in your lessons.
- Speeches and accounts – Read excerpts from Hidalgo’s speeches and early accounts of the rebellion.
- Maps – Have a map showing Mexico, key cities and sites of battles/events highlighted.
- Textbooks and literature – Find excerpts relevant to Mexican Independence and revolution.
- Multimedia – Incorporate interactive online activities, simulations, virtual tours, and games.
When discussing Mexican history and culture, consider the following strategies:
– Recognize Mexico’s ethnic diversity and the contributions of Indigenous populations over centuries of Spanish colonization.
– Note that while Mexico’s independence led to freedom from European rule, social hierarchies persisted in Mexico. Discuss ongoing efforts toward equality.
– Include perspectives of poor peasants who were involved in the prolonged war for independence.
– Examine impacts the revolution had on diverse groups of people in Mexico at the time.
– Discuss how Mexican Americans view this piece of history and celebrate cultural traditions today.
– Invite students with Mexican heritage to share family stories, perspectives, or traditions connected to Independence Day.
Connect your lessons about Mexican Independence Day to other subject areas:
– Social Studies – Analyze the societal roles of different ethnic and social groups in early 19th century Mexico. Examine impacts of Spanish colonialism.
– Language Arts – Have students write from the perspectives of figures like Hidalgo or Jose Morelos in journal entries or letters.
– Science – Study agricultural practices that supported the economy of colonial Mexico. Examine key crops and natural resources.
– Math – Have students analyze dates, create timelines, calculate travel distances of figures like Hidalgo.
– Art – Have students recreate Mexican revolutionary art, posters, and murals in the styles of famous artists like Diego Rivera.
– Music – Listen to traditional Mexican revolutionary songs and mariachi music. Analyze their significance.
– PE – Learn traditional Mexican folk dances like Los Machetes that celebrate revolutionary culture.
Teaching students about Mexican Independence Day provides a meaningful opportunity to build historical and cultural awareness. Make lessons engaging for your students by incorporating activities like simulations, journaling, art projects, research, multimedia, and cross-disciplinary connections. Most importantly, discuss the legacy of Mexico’s revolution as you celebrate this important day with learning and pride. ¡Viva la Independencia!