September 16th in Mexico, Diez Seis de Septembre, marks one of two annual celebrations observed to mark Mexico's independence, and the largest national holiday of the year. It is the day the 1810 revolution against the Spanish ruling class began when Father Miguel Hidalgo y Castilla rang the church bells in Dolores at midnight, calling Mexican peasants to arms against the gachupines (the ruling class, born in Spain).
Each year, to mark the anniversary, the Grito!, the rousing speech of father Hidalgo, is mirrored in public ceremonies all across the country, especially in Mexico City, and in Dolores Hidalgo where it all began.
If you're planning a quick flight down to observe the Mexican holiday, the original city of the revolution, Dolores Hidalgo, is a great place to land for the festival week. In spite of being the Cradle of Mexican Independence, Dolores Hidalgo is not your usual tourist town. The 60,000-plus people that live here remain generally humble common folk, fiercely proud of their heritage and history but always taking time to share their culture with inquiring minds.
Start your "independence" tour on the outskirts of town where an overly large statue depicts the players of Hidalgo's plea for Independence immortalized in stone. From there, head to the "Museo de Independencia," originally a prison (Hidalgo freed the inmates, who joined his forces) and also a historical art center.
From the museum head over to Casa de Don Miguel Hidalgo where the beloved priest lived from 1804 to 1810. The home is filled with exhibits of furniture and documents from that historic period.
The modern Dolores Hidalgo of today stands in sharp contrast to the rebellious frenzy that was demonstrated on that fateful September day in 1810. But you can catch a glimpse of that colorful past in the reenactments of Father Hidalgo's speech and the peasant's response with arms held throughout the community on Sept. 16 each year. Start by visiting the churches and cathedrals of the city where impromptu parades are known to develop, and work your way slowly to the town square where stages are erected and ceremonies staged featuring local officials and colorfully-clad school children who seize the day as one of merriment and grand celebration. Expect lots of fireworks all throughout the evening, plus live music on every corner.
While you're visiting, take in the local crafts, including famous Talavera pottery. Handcrafts and agriculture are the primary occupations in the town and surrounding countryside. Cottage industries include pottery, metal crafts, saddlery, tinware, and lapidary. You can visit the workshops and watch the artisans at work.
After "The Cry," Father Miguel Hidalgo (he wasn't an active priest at the time he led the revolution) and his countrymen marched some 20 miles to San Miguel de Allende to join the forces of military general Ignacio Allende. About 1,000 troops strong, they marched toward Guanajuato and within a week, their ranks had swelled to 25,000 and ultimately to 80,000. In spite of their numbers and their passion for freedom, it took another 11 years before Mexico achieved complete independence from Spain.
Miguel Hidalgo, along with three other revolutionary leaders, were executed in 1811, and for a decade thereafter their heads hung in public view, encased in steel cages in Guanajuato. This display, intended to scare and suppress the populace, may have had the opposite effect, because today, almost two centuries later, Hidalgo is still a national hero.
Our Lady of Sorrows Parish Church: A beautiful example of 18th Century architecture, its churrigueresque facade was painstakingly caved in rose colored quarry stone. Each year the traditional "Cry for Independence" is given from the atrium of this church.
Parish Church of the Assumption: Built at the end of he 19th Century, this church exhibits a variety of architectural styles; the portico is Greco-Roman, the main altar is Etruscan and the steeple is Gothic in style. The church also houses paintings by Don Pedro Ramirez.
Church of the Third Order: This small church is one of the oldest in the city, dating back to 1755. The facade of the church is baroque in style.
Visitors House: The Sub-delegate for the Spanish government originally lived here in 1786. The facade consists of six arches over which stone carved balconies were erected. In 1940, the house was acquired by the state government and converted into a residence for visiting dignitaries. Every five years the current Mexican President stays here when giving the "Cry for Independence."
House of Abasolo: Insurgent hero Mariano Abasolo was born here in 1784. In 1906 the government purchased the house and converted it into the Mayor's Office.
Hidalgo Monument: This bronze monument was erected on September 16, 1891 in honor of the Father of Mexican Independence, Miguel Hidalgo. The Sculpture was designed by Miguel Noreña, who was a sculptor and teacher at the School of Fine Arts.
Jose Alfredo Jimenez Mausoleum: Famed Mexican singer/composer Jose Alfredo Jimenez is buried here. The mausoleum was restored to commemorate the 25th anniversary of this death.
Erre Hacienda: Located 8 kms. southeast of Dolores, Hacienda de la Erre is considered one of the oldest in the country and was the first headquarters of the Insurgent Army.
Monument to the Heroes of the Independence: Designed by sculptor Jorge Gonzalez and architect Carlos Obregon Santacilla, this monument was built to commemorate the heroes of the Independence; Hidalgo, Allende, Aldama and Morelos.
Convention and Business Development Center: This modern building is located in Colonia 15 de Septiember. Throughout the year a variety of handicraft exhibitions are held here, highlighting the works of local and state renowned artists.
The nearest airports to Dolores Hidalgo are in Leon and Queretaro. First class buses from Mexico City are convenient and comfortable. If no direct service is available at your time of arrival, best bet is to get a bus to San Miguel de Allende (they run more frequently) and change buses for Dolores.
Where To Stay
The Mexico National Tourism Office (1-800-44-Mexico) lists three hotels. Hotel de Posada Los Campanas, 011-52-418-20427; the Hotel de Caudillo, 011-52-418-20198; and Posada Dolores, 011-52-418-20642. Lodging is plentiful in San Miguel de Allende, only 25 miles away.