Mexican Bicentenary II: Fireworks Fiesta

Don’t let them tell you that the citizens of Mexico City went out to the Zócalo “despite their fears”. That they “braved” the streets or “showed courage” going out to celebrate two hundred years of their country’s independence. Yes, it’s true that Mexico has a lot on its plate and that there’s a lot still left to work through. Yes, it’s true that Ciudad Juárez cancelled its eleven o’clock Grito in fear of what the cartels might do if it went ahead, and that the next day a twenty-one-year-old photojournalist was murdered in that city. It’s true that indigenous populations in the south still believe that they’re getting the short end of the stick, and that political and police corruption needs to be curbed. But that doesn’t mean that Mexicans didn’t feel they had anything to celebrate. The US and international media narratives surrounding the events this week have been overly simplistic when not wilfully misleading: the violence-takes-hold-of-this-country-every-hundred-years and the nothing-to-celebrate-here memes are rubbish. Much more accurate—if less exciting—are the headlines like this one from Reforma on the morning after the celebrations: “Mucho y nada que festejar.” A lot and nothing—not just nothing. Certainly, one would be hard-pressed to find a crowd as proud as that which met Felipe Calderón’s Grito with the return cry of “¡Viva!” on Wednesday night. One would be hard-pressed to hear a rendition of a national anthem as passionate as the one that followed those cries. Of course, Mexico City isn’t the rest of Mexico. But then neither is Ciudad Juárez. The US media— adverse to nuance at the best of times, let alone when reporting on its southern neighbour—would have you believe that the entire country is in a state of siege. It isn’t. Don’t let them tell you the Mexican people were scared. The Mexican people were celebrating.

Words by Matthew Clayfield / Photos by Austin Andrews

Opposing Guards

Opposing guards.

Police in the Centro Historico. Across central Mexico City 40,000 forces were deployed for the largest celebrations in the country's history.

Two ears, three hats. Across central Mexico City 40,000 forces were deployed for the largest celebrations in the nation's history.

Mobility where in a few hours there would be none.

Mobility where in a few hours there will be none.

Hair stripe / wind stripe.

Hair stripe / wind stripe.

Fingers I

Fingers I (they reach out in support)

Fingers II

Fingers II

Fingers III (they reach for poncho-wrapped light wands)

Fingers III (they reach out for poncho-wrapped light wands)

The light wands make their entrance

The light wands make their entrance.

Beams across the sky.

Beams across the sky.

The giant and the man.

Man and his creation.

Giant in the fog.

Giant in the fog.

Eye oh oh. Photo credit Matthew Clayfield.

Eye oh oh. Photo credit Matthew Clayfield.

Mexico, population 24.

Mexico, population 24.

The National Palace prepares.

The National Palace prepares.

Shouts of support for President Felipe Calderón.

¡Viva!

President

President Felipe Calderón delivers his annual 'El Grito de la Independencia' (Cry of Independence) from the balcony of the National Palace.

Cathedral projections under the watch of hundreds of camera LCDs.

Cathedral projections as hundreds of camera and phone LCDs watch.

The eyes watch.

Fireworks after bedtime.

Lights in the sky / lights on the ground. An estimated eight tons of fireworks were set off.

Lights in the sky / lights on the ground. An estimated eight tons of fireworks were set off.

Still dressed in their uniforms, parade participants sleep on the late-service metro after the celebrations.

Still dressed in their uniforms, participants from the evening's parade sleep on the late-service metro.

Author

Austin Andrews and Matthew Clayfield are the co-editors of Disposable Words. They have collaborated on a number of film and journalism projects.

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