They’re free, independent and ready to party in Chiapas

Published in The Seattle Times/blog, by Brian J. Cantwell, Sept 17, 2013.

… The parade, which featured high-school bands, angry teachers and what must have been just about every unit of the Mexican military, along with their mortars and bazookas, was the finale of a brisk 24 hours of Mexican patriotism. Mexicans reserve the biggest splurge of celebrating for the night before Sept. 16, their official day of independence.  

The teachers were a part of nationwide protests against recently passed education reform championed by Mexico’s president. In Oaxaca, before I left on Saturday, teachers had blockaded streets leading to the zocalo, or city square, and there was evidence of a similar action in San Cristobal on Sunday. I wondered how passionately Mexico’s federal holiday would be observed in Chiapas, perhaps best known outside of Mexico for the 1994 Zapatista rebellion that saw the seizure of San Cristobal’s city hall. But by sundown Sunday, protest placards had disappeared and a full night of military bands, folk dancing, Mexican pop music and dazzle-bang fireworks brought thousands into the city’s heart.

The folk dancing, featuring saucy caballeros pirouetting around scarf-twirling ladies in whirling skirts, started at 7.

Knowing that “El Grito” — the climax of the night when a top local official would repeat a historical declaration of independence from Spain — would happen at 11 p.m., I was curious how they would sustain the performance. As I watched folk dance after folk dance after folk dance, it occurred to me that if their dancing didn’t last forever, it might just feel that way.

OK, I shouldn’t dis the folk dancers. (I’ll save that for the glitter-skirted female pop singers who followed.) No, really, overall it was a rousing, feel-good party, ending with pinwheeling fireworks from a 60-foot tower in front of the cathedral, then red, white and green sparks blazing and booming high into the sky.

I went back to my hotel on the edge of downtown and slept well until awakened by loud rock music from somewhere in the neighborhood. Apparently some merrymakers didn’t go to bed when I did. I looked at the clock: 4:48 a.m.

Mexico loves its holidays, and being here to experience one was something I’ll not soon forget. Expect more detail in an upcoming travel article in The Seattle Times.

(full text).

Links:

Back to school with the Zapatistas, on rabble.ca, by JEH CUSTERRA, Sept 6, 2013;

The outsider’s story: Michael Spurgeon, on NewsReview, by Trina L. Drotar, Sept 12, 2013;

Articles by Raul Zibechi, on UpsideDownworld.org: covering activism and politics in Latin America, translated by Chiappas support Committee (Raul Zibechi is international relations editor at the magazine Brecha in Montevideo, adviser to grassroots organizations and writer of the monthly Zibechi Report of the CIP Americas Program):

Zapatista Army of National Liberation on en.wikipedia: often referred to as the Zapatistas, is a revolutionary leftist group based in Chiapas, the southernmost state of Mexico  …;

en espanol: Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional EZLN, on es.wikipedia: es una organización mexicana de carácter político, que en sus inicios fue militar. Su inspiración política es el zapatismo, el marxismo y el socialismo libertario, y su estructura militar es la guerrilla …;

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