El Grito de Dolores (the Cry of Dolores) rang out on September 16, 1810, in what is now Dolores Hidalgo, Guanajuato. Father Miguel Hidalgo addressed his parishioners with this speech and call to arms after learning the plot against the Spanish colonial government was betrayed. It’s unclear what he said in this battle cry, but several versions say something like, “Long live our Lady of Guadalupe, death to bad government, death to the Spaniards!” It was enough to rally mobs in support of Hidalgo and mark the beginning of the Mexican War of Independence. It wasn’t until 1821 that Mexican independence became official.
Since then, Mexico celebrates its independence in spectacular displays of culture and tradition. On the eve of Mexican Independence Day each year, the president shouts from the National Palace in Mexico City: “Viva México! Viva la Independencia! Vivan los héroes!” Small towns and villages also take part in the festivities called the Fiestas Patrias, meaning “patriotic holidays.” They are a celebration of the initial call for independence on September 16. The people spend days participating in traditional parades, music, dance, and food. It’s a beautiful event in Mexico and the perfect time to appreciate the culture and history. To help out, here are some reads that are iconic in Mexican history and some that represent and celebrate Mexican culture.
The Labyrinth of Solitude by Octavio Paz
Octavio Paz is recognized as one of the most prominent writers in Mexico and captures its people and culture in his work. The Labyrinth of Solitude is a book-length essay about Mexico’s search for identity that allows us to get a look beneath the surface of what we think we know. It is an existential and psychoanalytic take on Mexican culture that influenced future fiction and poetry in Latin America.
Pedro Páramo by Juan Rulfo
This novel tells the story of Juan Preciado, who honors his mother’s dying wish to locate his father, Pedro Páramo. Though they ran from him years ago, Juan heads to Comala – a place that seems to be a literal ghost town. It was built on the tyranny of the Páramo family, and its spirits share secrets of the past. Pedro Páramo is surrealist fiction and is considered a classic in Mexican modern literature.
The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
This incredible coming-of-age story is about 12-year-old Esperanza Cordero. She’s a Latina in Chicago figuring out who and what she will be. Cisneros composed a series of vignettes to tell the story through Esperanza’s experience growing up in the Hispanic neighborhoods of Chicago.
Umami by Laia Jufresa
Umami uses five different perspectives to tell the story of life in an inner-city community. Ana is a 12-year-old in the heart of Mexico City coming to terms with the death of her sister years earlier. When she decides to plant a vegetable garden, her neighbors in turn share their pasts to create this dark, whimsical, and comic picture of contemporary Mexico.
Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Casiopea Tun lives in a small town in southern Mexico and is too busy cleaning the floors of her wealthy grandfather’s house to think about her own life. But still, she dreams of a life far away. It seems like a far-fetched dream until she finds a wooden box in her grandfather’s room. Curiosity gets the better of her, and she accidentally frees the Mayan god of death when she opens the box. He requests her help in taking his throne back from his brother. Her success means she could have the life she dreams of, but failure means death. She begins a quest that takes her into the depths of the Mayan underworld.
The Broken Spears: The Aztec Account of the Conquest of Mexico by Miguel León-Portilla
This historical account of the Mexican conquest and defeat of the Aztecs expands on the usually Spanish-centered stories. Accounts of Mexican history are often told from the perspective of the Spanish who colonized indigenous people. León-Portilla has included the stories of native Aztec descendants across history to get a more complete picture of their experiences. It emphasizes the importance of including indigenous voices in these tellings.
Manifest Destinies: The Making of the Mexican American Race by Laura E. Gómez
This historical resource tells the story of the original Mexican Americans who lived in northern Mexico during the Mexican American War. It also demonstrates how white supremacy created a racial hierarchy where Mexican Americans were compared to Native Americans and African Americans. It’s an interesting exploration of how certain groups became racialized and how racial categories change over time.
As Hispanic Heritage Month blooms around us, take advantage of all the resources and rich culture you’ll see throughout the month. You’ll learn not only about Mexican culture but many other Latin and Spanish-speaking cultures as well.
For more on Hispanic Heritage Month from Bookstr, keep reading here!