Growing up in Mexico, Mariana Hernandez y Rojas found that celebrating independence is “the perfect excuse to have a party.”
There’s food, tequila and mezcal, a distilled liquor made from agave.
“Everyone is celebrating,” said Hernandez y Rojas, a second-year Spanish doctoral student. “I’ve never known anyone to stay home on [Sept. 15]. You have the whole attire, the performance, the flags, the ‘Mexicanity.’ It’s always there.”
Mexico is one of eight Latin American countries that are celebrating their independence this month, according to the Library of Congress. But no matter when a Latin American country honors their independence day, students say it is a time for family, food, fun and reflection.
But this year, the Mexican government broadcasted a view of the plaza adorned with massive displays of light and fire. These were meant to remember those lost to the pandemic, El Universal reported.
As Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the president of Mexico, finished delivering the traditional independence speech, fireworks and music came alive.
Hernández y Rojas sees a bit of irony in the government’s role in the celebrations.
“I find it interesting how we can complain all year long about all the problems the country has and has always had, but on [September 15th], we’re so very happy to be Mexican,” Hernandez y Rojas said.
For some, celebrating their country’s independence day is a reminder of good times spent with family.
Angela Tessitore, a freshman public relations major from Colombia, fondly remembered the memories she had made with her family surrounding her country’s independence day on July 20.
“We listen to Colombian music and make Colombian food all year round but that day is just special, and we just try to celebrate it,” Tessitore said.
This year, Tessitore stayed home with her family and learned to make traditional food, like arepas, or cornmeal cakes.
Food is an important part of independence day celebrations.
Juan Zambonini, a third-year music therapy doctoral student, is from Argentina but has lived in both Mexico and the U.S. On Argentina’s independence day, he prepared locro, an Argentinian stew, and left it at a friend’s doorstep. Later, he celebrated with them virtually.
“It was a way to share it with them, and to feel close to them,” Zambonini said.
Independence days are also a time to reflect on how hard won these celebrations were for many countries.
Beginning in 1808, within two decades most of Latin America secured its independence from Iberian powers, according to Encyclopedia Britannica. The oppressed lower classes of Indigenous, African, and mixed race people rallied with leaders like Simon Bolivar in South America and Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla in Mexico, according to Britannica.
Zambonini feels that although independence days mark official independence of these countries, independence itself is an ongoing process.
“Argentinians have always been very politically involved, and have been a very forward-thinking society,” Zambonini said. “I think all of Latin America is in a process of independence, especially economic independence, and now cultural independence with globalization.”
Hernandez y Rojas hopes people take time during Hispanic Heritage Month and beyond to learn about the history of Latin American people and their countries.
“It is important for Americans to know about other countries’ traditions and history, not only Mexico’s,” Hernandez y Rojas said.
Zambonini also feels it is important for Americans to recognize different cultures within Latin America.
“Coming into the United States, it makes it a lot more difficult to navigate, because it is just very ‘othering,’” Zambonini said. “There’s very different Latinos. It would help to move past the generalization of ‘Latino’ and understand there is a country that had its independence.”