September 16 – Independence Day (1810)! Typically celebrated on the evening of the 15th with a reenactment of “El Grito” and lots of pozole. The party continues with a “recalentado,” or leftover feast, the next day.
September 19 – 2015 was the 30th Anniversary of the devastating 8.0 magnitude earthquake killed at least 5,000 people that destroyed many buildings in Mexico City. Citizens responded to the government’s slow and woefully inadequate response to the disaster with a call for greater accountability and a more responsive government. To learn more about this turning point in civic engagement in Mexico, read this essay by the Mexican activist and journalist, Carlos Monsiváis.
October 2 – This day commemorates the horrific massacre in 1968 of students and other civilian protesters in Tlatelolco in Mexico City (10 days before the Opening Ceremony of the ’68 Olympics). Although there was a lot of confusion at the time about who was responsible for the killings, it’s now generally accepted that snipers were ordered by the government to shoot into the crowd. The total death toll is not officially known, but eyewitnesses estimate that as many as 300 civilians were killed. Elena Poniatowska’s book, La Noche de Tlatelolco, chronicles the events of October 2nd.
November 1 and 2 – Día de los Muertos. One of the most important cultural and religious celebrations in Mexico. Families create altars filled with pan de muerto, marigold flowers, candles, incense, colorful papel picado, and the favorite food and drink of the deceased to celebrate those who have passed away. The 1st is for children who have died and the 2nd is for adults. Although these days are now celebrated as Catholic holidays (and coincide with All Saints Day), they also incorporate various pre-Hispanic elements, which remind us of the origins of this holiday. This essay provides a short overview of the celebrations.
November 20 – Día de la Revolución. The 1910 revolution against Porfirio Díaz’s reign (known as the Porfiriato) lasted for ten years, although violence continued into the 1920s. The revolution drastically changed the social and economic system in Mexico. This day is usually celebrated with a parade through town, with children and adults alike dressed as gun-toting revolutionaries and “adelitas.” The adelitas were women who played a key role in the revolutionary movement. The revolution brought many political changes, but also marked a turning point in how women were viewed in society. Since many women participated in the revolution, they were reluctant to go back to their domestic roles. For more information, check out this overview on the Mexican Revolution.
December 12 – Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe (became a national holiday in 1859). The Virgin of Guadalupe is Mexico’s most important religious figure and patron saint. On December 12th 1531, a Mexican man named Jaun Diego reported that a dark-skinned and dark-haired Virgin appeared to him and told him to request that a church be built on the nearby hill. On this day, most Mexican’s attend Catholic Mass and bring statue and photos of the Virgin to be blessed. Other devout Catholics partake in a pilgrimage to the Basilica of Guadalupe in the northern part of Mexico City. Many pilgrims travel to worship and receive the Virgin’s blessings. Some even make the pilgrimage solely on their knees! Here is news coverage from the 2015 Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe.
December 16-24 – Posadas. The Mexican Christmas season begins on the 16th with the first “Posada,” which represents Mary and Joseph asking for shelter before Jesus’s birth. Neighbors gather together to sing and “find shelter,” and the night ends with tamales, ponche, and piñatas! It’s basically a religious neighborhood block party for nine nights in a row. Read more here and about the pre-hispanic roots of this tradition here (Spanish link).
December 24 – Noche Buena, Christmas Eve. Many families go to Mass on Christmas Eve and then gather together for comida and presents.”Noche buena” is also what poinsettias are called in Mexico. Additional fun fact: Bohemia beer makes a special Christmas “Noche Buena” brew. It seems like the 24th is more important here in Mexico than it is in the United States.
December 28 – Mexico’s version of “April Fool’s Day.” Also known as the “Day of Holy Innocents” in most Catholic countries. For more, check out this article.