In the US, or at least in the parts of the US I lived before moving to San Diego—the East Coast and Midwest—most people know two Mexican holidays: Cinco de Mayo (May 5) and Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). I didn’t realize May 5 wasn’t Mexican Independence Day until we moved to Southern California in 2012. We arrived in late August. One of the first places we checked out on arrival was San Diego Old Town where we saw preparations for Mexican Independence Day coming up in just a couple of weeks.
September 16 marks Mexico’s independence from Spain in 1810 when a priest, Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, rang the church bell and gave a speech calling for independence from Spain, racial equality, and redistribution of land. The speech became known as Grito de Dolores (Cry of Dolores), and it marked the beginning of a decade-long war with Spain, which finally recognized Mexico as an independent country on August 24, 1821.
The President of Mexico rings the same church bell on the evening before September 16 to mark the beginning of the festivities which include parades, speeches, music, food, and fireworks.
Better known in the US, Cinco de Mayo marks a battle in Mexican history—the defeat by poorly equipped Mexican fighters against the stronger forces of the French Empire in 1862. In Mexico, celebrations are limited to the area around the city of Puebla, where the battle occurred. Celebrations of Cinco de Mayo in the US are much larger than in Mexico. Beer sales on Cinco de Mayo rival the sales numbers during Super Bowl here.