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Mérida marks Independence Day with a somber military parade

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Mérida, Yucatán — After a night of patriotic celebrations, locals and visitors today returned to the Plaza Grande Sunday morning for a civic military parade to mark Mexico’s 208th year of independence.

The parade and ceremonies were a show of military police force, honoring the men and women who protect Yucatán’s citizens and assist during natural disasters.

The day began early, with the raising of the national flag at 7:45 a.m. on the Plaza Grande’s flagpole. Gov. Rolando Zapata Bello and Mérida Mayor Renán Barrera Concha officiated.

The parade filled the Paseo de Montejo, Calle 61 and Calle 62 with more than 6,000 students, police, soldiers, sailors and service workers.

It was the last military civic parade for the governor, who presided from the balcony of the Government Palace. On Oct. 1, he will hand over the command to the newly elected governor, Mauricio Vila Dosal, who was Mérida’s mayor.

The parade was described in Diario de Yucatán as quiet, with no pictures alluding to the independence movement or references to the national heroes who are credited with Mexico’s independence from Spain.

Sept. 16 marks the moment when Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, a Catholic priest known as Father Hidalgo, made the first cry for independence. After a moving speech in the town of Dolores, Hidalgo took up the banner of the Virgin of Guadalupe, a Roman Catholic image of the Virgin Mary as she appears to Juan Diego, an indigenous Mexican believer who was later sainted by the church.

As Hidalgo took up the banner of Guadalupe, the patron saint of Mexico, many people were inspired to follow him. Albarrán says they amassed a large, unruly, hodgepodge army that included women, children, grandparents, and livestock. Untrained and difficult to control, it was eventually defeated, with many of its members going back home to harvest their fields.

Hidalgo was defrocked as a priest by the Spanish Inquisition, and was later beheaded by the civil government as punishment for the revolt. His head was displayed in Guanajuato, where he and his army were charged with causing a massacre.

As per tradition on Mexico’s independence day, however, the president in Mexico City, and the governor in states including Yucatán, honor the legacy of Father Hidalgo by performing a reenactment of sorts. At 11 p.m. on Sept. 15, 1810, according to folklore, Hidalgo went into the parish church in Dolores, rang the church bell, and told the villagers who came running that they needed to revolt.

So every Sept. 15 at that same time, the president and some governors give a speech that is supposedly Hidalgo’s words. Nobody actually wrote down what Hidalgo said.

Despite the uncertainty around Hidalgo’s exact words, the speech today celebrates his passion for Mexico and its people—and honors the moment when he pushed the country toward its eventual independence.

Sources: Diario de Yucatán, National Geographic

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