01.09.2012 - 30.09.2012
Independence Day in the United States is, with my family, a daytime, non-alcoholic celebration that no longer even involves a barbeque cookout due to its potential carcinogenic properties. When we were kids it was full of water balloon fights and pool parties, topped off with magical, deafening fireworks in some park. In Mexico, now as an adult, Independence Day is a completely different experience. Obviously it involves a lot more tequila shots and beer, but that’s not even the fun part.
Mexican Independence Day has lots of funky traditions that you just have to partake in- food and fireworks being huge, of course (later we'll write about the best foods for Independence Day). My favorite, however, is the required dress code. In the US you can get away with jeans and an Old Navy flag t-shirt to cover your red, white and blue. In Mexico, the flag colors are green, white and red. These aren’t necessarily flattering colors, so how can you show your patriotic spirit without looking like a red tomato (or a green one, at that)? Red high heels seem to be the choice for many women, along with long green dresses or tight white pants. Men don’t apparently care too much. Our volunteers went decked out in traditional Mexican shirts in a variety of colors. Jewelry includes gaudy green, white and red beaded rings, beaded necklaces, hoop earrings with mini sombreros on them, hair bows with giant green chilies and patriotic ribbons for the mandatory braids. Face paint comes in crayon form, all three colors on one little eraser size stick that you use to draw football-player-style lines under your eyes or down your cheekbones.
And it gets better. Many schools require children to dress up as an Independence character or in traditional dress: throughout the day you see little girls in long green, white and red skirts with off-the-shoulder white laced blouses, dark hair plaited in two braids. Or you see little boys dressed up as Father Hidalgo, the first Independence war hero, who was going bald at the top. Stores actually sell balding head pieces so your child can be as authentic as possible. And the array of head-wear is astounding. You’ll see giant sombreros that say “Viva México,” farmers’ hats with ribbons, as well as green, white and red mohawks. The last, but most important, Mexican Independence Day fashion piece is the awesome bigote (mustache). That’s right. You must wear a mustache. The popularity of mustaches most likely stems from the heroes of the Mexican Revolution, not the Independence movement; however, everyone wears them regardless of this historical anomaly.
“And where can I get all this cool Independence Day bling?”- you may ask. In downtown Cuernavaca and on any popular street corner where the vendors won’t get run over. Every block is staked out by a little carrito (cart) decked with Mexican flags. There you will be able to bargain down your own Independence Day jewelry and knickknacks. Our purchases this year included rings, hair bows, a green, white and red chicken with a sombrero to hang from the rear-view mirror, face paint and of course, several mustaches.
Read more about the importance of Mexican mustaches here: top-5-mexican-mustaches