September 16th, Mexican Independence Day, means little to the Americans living across the border, but like our July 4th it is a day celebrated across Mexico with parades, festivals, dances, and food. On September 16th, 1810, Miguel Hidalgo, a Catholic priest, rang the bell of his church in the small town of Dolores in the state of Guanajuato that triggered the Mexican War of Independence from Spain. Hildalgo was later captured and beheaded but his movement eventually produced independence for the Mexican people. His call to arms, El Grito, is repeated by the governors of each state at the government palace each in in commemoration of that historic day in 1810.
¡Vivan los héroes que nos dieron patria!
¡Viva Josefa Ortiz de Domínguez!
¡Vivan Aldama y Matamoros!
¡Viva la independencia nacional!
This year the celebration of Independencia in the Mexican state of Oaxaca will be different. There will be no parade, no El Grito. After a devastating 8.2 earthquake that flattened much of the town of Juchitan and impacted structures throughout southern Mexico and took the lives of dozens of people, the Independence Day parade and El Grito have been cancelled in the state of Oaxaca.
The stands selling independence decorations are still on the streets.
Chefs will still prepare the famous Chilies en Nogada to celebrate Independence Day. A green poblano chile stuffed with a special filling of meat and spices and fruits and nuts covered with a white sauce made from peeled walnuts and sprinkled with red pomegranate seeds is the traditional meal in the national colors (green, white and red).
I remember a few years back working with the famous chefs Lina Fernandez and Pilar Cabrera to make this wonderful dish for La Olla restaurant in Oaxaca. We worked side by side in the kitchen of Las Bugambilias B&B next door to the restaurant. My job, the only one of which I was deemed capable, was to peel the walnuts. My wife and Ninfa Raigosa peeled as well. It took a long time to peel enough walnuts the make the amount of sauce needed.
How Lina Fernandez makes Chilies en Nogada
Mexicans will do their best to remember their Independence Day under difficult conditions. They will work to recover just like Americans will work to recover from the recent disasters that have assailed us.
The relationship between Mexico and the United States is at a low point. We can do better. Yes, America has its own tragedies with two major hurricanes in the south and huge wildfires in the west. No doubt we have our hands full. But this is a time when we can let our neighbors know that we are there for them as well. We can offer assistance to Mexico even while helping our own to recover from the natural disasters that have come to plague us. That is what good neighbors do.