Bicentennial of the Independence of Mexico

by Minister Gabriela Colín Ortega, Embassy of Mexico in South Africa

15 September 2021

It is a privilege for me to address you all on the occasion of the celebration of the Bicentennial of the Independence of Mexico, a revolutionary movement that started in the early hours of the sixteenth of September 1810, when the priest Miguel Hidalgo congregated the people of his parish in the town of Dolores and encouraged them to join him to fight for the freedom of Mexico. Hidalgo’s call is known as “el Grito de Independencia” (the Cry for Independence), which Mexicans both locally and abroad celebrate annually to renew our bonds to freedom and sovereignty.

The independence war lasted eleven years. During this period, the insurgentes -as we refer to our freedom fighters- were so ahead of their time, that Hidalgo abolished slavery as early as December 1810, and José María Morelos -a brilliant Afro-Mexican- proclaimed the first Constitution in 1814.

Finally, on 27 September 1821, after thorough negotiations between the representatives of the Spanish crown, the local communities and the insurgentes, Agustín de Iturbide led the Ejército Trigarante (The Three Guarantees Army) which included all existing armed contingents, accompanied by General Vicente Guerrero of the revolutionary army, into the heart of Mexico City, the capital of the then New Spain, to declare the Independence of Mexico.

With this, Spanish rule was put to an end. The recently attained independence was celebrated throughout the country emphasizing the union, the freedom and the multi-ethnic roots of the Mexican society, represented in the colours of the flag which have not changed since then: green, white and red.

Vicente Guerrero, the key negotiator and leader of the insurgents, portrayed the Mexican multi-ethnicity as a descendant of white, indigenous and Afro-Mexican people. He became the second President of Mexico and was declared “Worthy Son of the Homeland”.

After two hundred years of independence, Mexico is today a Federal Republic with well-defined borders and a population that is proud to be a kaleidoscope of cultures and ethnic groups.

But it was not an easy pathway. The new-born nation had to evolve, building its own political, economic and social identity and shaping its national interest within its international relations: its brotherhood with the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean; its cultural bonds with Spain; its economic association with Canada and the United States; its promising traditional trade routes with eastern Asia; and its socio-cultural heritage with Europe, China, the Arab countries and Sub-Saharan Africa.

In keeping with the tradition of seeking out its own identity, Mexico is currently in the important process of recovering all the ethnic and cultural traditions inherited by the million and a half Afro-Mexicans from their ancestors who arrived in Mexico as early as the XVI century.

They have contributed with important inputs into our language like marimba and zombie; a wide range of habits from open kitchens to carnivals; beliefs like life cycles; gastronomy such as sweet potato bread and dried meat; as well as dress items, music and dance.

That is why Mexico is written with an “x”, because it is a cross-roads for our ancient cultures, our former colonial power and migrants from around the world; for the political diasporas fleeing from conflict; for international trade routes, particularly between North and South America, Europe and Asia; and for blending indigenous traditions with contemporary expressions to build bridges through cultural dialogues expressed in genuine people to people interactions, conversations and relationships.

Mexico and South Africa have a broad spectrum of shared views on the world’s dynamics, expressed through similar positions in international relations and cooperation. Our bilateral dialogue also profits from common positions in different UN organs and agencies; and other international organizations such as the G20.

In this context, the Embassy of Mexico works to build bridges with key South African partners within the political, business, academic and cultural communities.

To this aim, a very relevant tandem has been created with the Centre for Mexican Studies of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) at the University of the Witwatersrand for promoting Mexican culture, fostering academic mobility schemes, and teaching and certifying Spanish as a foreign language.

Working together with South Africa will bring concrete benefits to our societies in the post-pandemic world as both countries have been vocal in fostering solidarity to fight the coronavirus disease since 2020.

With the Bicentennial festive spirit, Mexico and South Africa will continue strengthening their bilateral framework to boost cooperation for promoting youth employment, gender inclusivity and nation-building.

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