Independence Day

 



Most people in the United States think Cinco de Mayo is Mexico’s Independence Day. They are wrong. That’s the commemoration of a battle Mexico won against the French. The actual Independence Day is September 16, which was last Friday. About a month ago I began seeing red, white, and green decorations going up everywhere and thought, “Wow, they’re decorating for Christmas early.” Then I realized those are the patriotic colors for Mexico, and they were decorating for Independence Day not Christmas. One of the traditions for Independence Day in Mexico is El Grito (the yell.) The official Grito takes place in the Zocalo, the historic city square of Mexico City. It commemorates Miguel Hidalgo, a Catholic priest who was one of the heroes of the Mexican revolution. On September 16, 1810, he rang his church bell and gave a fiery call to arms which was the beginning of the revolution. His speech ended with “Viva Mexico! Viva Mexico! Viva Mexico!” Every year at 11 pm on September 15, the president of Mexico comes out on the balcony of the National Palace overlooking the Zocalo, rings the same bell Hidalgo rang, waves a flag, and gives a speech in which he calls out the names of the fallen heroes of the revolution. He ends with the crowd all joining him in shouting, “Viva Mexico! Viva Mexico, Viva Mexico!” That officially begins the Independence Day celebrations.

Ron really wanted to go to the official El Grito, but everyone we spoke with said, “Don’t.” They said people go down a couple of days ahead to stake out their spots. It gets really crowded, and by the time the event arrives, most of the people are drunk. They didn’t seem to think it was a safe place for a couple of old gringos. Fortunately, we found out that there was going to be a fiesta, including an El Grito in the Pueblito on Thursday evening. As a bonus, El Grito there was going to take place there at 10 pm instead of 11 pm, which appealed to us. So we, the Frandsens, and the Davises all went to the Pueblito to begin our Independence Day celebration. It was a fun, loud party. Something happened there that demonstrates something I love about Mexico. The Pueblito has a sports court which has a raised, stage area in it where entertainment was being performed for the party. When we arrived, a woman with a lovely voice was on the stage singing. When she finished, the crowd cheered. Then a man took the stage and sang, but he didn’t sing well. In fact, he was off key his entire performance. When he finished, the crowd cheered. Next a man came onstage to dance. He had some decent moves for someone on the dance floor, but nothing I’d think of as being spectacular enough to be performing onstage. When he finished, the crowd cheered. I thought, how awesome is this! If you feel like singing, sing. If you feel like dancing, dance. Nobody cares if you’re good or not, they’ll cheer for you no matter what!


This woman sang beautifully. On the right you can see the Queen of the fiesta and her court.

The little kids and some of the adults were dressed in patriotic colors or traditional Mexican clothing. Taco stands were set up and children were setting off fireworks. At 10:00, a cute color guard made up of children who looked to be about 11 or 12, marched in carrying a Mexican flag. They marched up onto the stage and presented the flag to a man who then led the crowd in El Grito. It was fun to be there and feel the energy of the group. Up to that point, there was a crowd but not as big of one as we’d expected. After El Grito, more people started pouring in and the alcohol came out. We realized we’d been there for the family friendly portion of the night and decided it was time to go home.


This family came up to us at the fiesta. They said they'd seen us around and wanted to introduce themselves. We had a long, fun conversation. Later the father brought their two son to meet us also.
    
I asked this cute little girl's mother if I could take her picture. The mother said yes and told her to smile. I almost laughed because I have a few grandchildren and a husband who if you tell them to smile, you get this same kind of stiff grimace.
     


The next morning, we along with the Frandsens and Bob Alsop went to Reforma to see the Independence Day Parade. I had some things come up that I needed to get done for work before we left, so we were later getting there than we’d planned. There were people all along both sides of Reforma, but the parade route was so long that it didn’t seem overly crowded. It was a military parade. First came battalions of soldiers marching in historic uniforms. They were followed by battalions from all the different branches of the Mexican military. Helicopters repeatedly flew over in formation, and at one point, jets flew over. The crowds cheered constantly, waved flags, and blew horns. It was easy to get caught up in the pride and emotion of the moment. Then I looked at the faces of the soldiers going past. They were mostly young, and I thought, “Oh please, don’t let there be a war.” We watched for over half an hour, then walked further up Reforma and found a restaurant where we could have lunch. TVs in the restaurant showed the parade as it continued, and when we came out after eating, it was still going on. I believe every soldier in the entire country must have been in that parade. They even included military nurses and the Red Cross. (Ron asked our daughter Madi, who is a nurse, if they taught her how to march when she was in nursing school. She said she must have missed that day.) We watched for a little while longer and then finally had enough, so we went home even though the parade was still going on.

This little cutie was standing by us during the parade. I loved her face painting and asked if I could take a picture.
   

     
The helicopters flying overhead

     

    
We saw this guy wearing a Yellowstone National Park T-shirt and had to stop and talk with him. He was also quite proud of his Dallas Cowboys hat, but we were more interested in the shirt.

     
Pat Frandsen and her friend are on the left of us. We all wore such bright colors that it was impossible for us to get lost. If you look through the gate behind them, you can see the castle.

     
This is a better shot of the castle and the monument in front of it.

     
Friday evening we got this photo from Alfredo who was out of town covering an event with the Wrights. He said his daughter had gone to the parade and sent him this photo of "some missionaries" she saw there. I replied, "You caught us!"

That evening we went to the home of the Grants. Douglas Grant is the mission president of the Mexico City West mission. He and his wife, Mary Ann, invited all the Teca Once missionaries for dinner. Also at the dinner was Elder Sean Douglas, who is a General Authority Seventy and the new second counselor in our Area Presidency, along with his wife Ann. They and the Grants are such lovely, warm people. It was an enjoyable evening. To begin with, the Grants had us all introduce ourselves. When we said we were from Shelley, Idaho, Ann Douglas said, “Shelley, Idaho. I’ll have to talk with you.” When we spoke later, she asked if we knew the Highams, which of course we do. It turns out their daughter is married to Andy Higham.

Elder and Sister Douglas are sitting on the left and the Grants are sitting on the right.

This week we got three new districts of missionaries in our branch at the CCM. That means there were 36 missionaries to be interviewed on Wednesday evening instead of our usual 12, so Wednesday was a late night. Sunday was the last day at the CCM for the missionaries in our first district. It is amazing how quickly you can come to love people. Saying good-bye to them felt a little like saying good-by to our kids. It was amazing to see how much they’ve learned and grown over their four weeks in the CCM.



On our way to the CCM on Wednesday, the traffic was extremely heavy. At one point, we came up to the Citibanamex headquarters which stretches for several blocks and which has a frontage road that parallels the road we were on. Our driver pulled over into the entrance, slipped the guard some money, the guard opened the gate, and we sailed along the frontage road past the congested traffic on the main road. Ron said, “They let you do that?” The driver replied that in Mexico they have a saying, “Con dinero, baile el perro.” (With money the dog dances.) At the end of the complex, we pulled back into the congested traffic and the driver said, “I’m sorry, that’s all of that there is.” I replied, “No mas perros?” (No more dogs?) The driver laughed and laughed at that. I’m not great at Spanish, but I can still crack a joke now and then.

I’ve mentioned the Frandsens a few times in this post, and it’s a new name here. Tracy Frandsen was one of the doctors at the CCM, but they recently changed him to be an Area Medical Advisor. So he and his wife, Pat, moved to Teca Once. She is a great photographer and videographer and is working with us in the Communications Department. They are fun people. They are also serving in a branch at the CCM. They have a car, so we and the Alsops take turns riding with them to and from the CCM. On Sunday, it was our turn to ride home with them. They have a friend visiting, and they wanted to take her on the Cable Bus. I’d heard them talking about the Cable Bus before, but they said it with the Spanish pronunciation which is “Cob-Ley-Boos”, so although I knew what it was, I didn’t know what the name meant. Then I saw it written and it made sense. The Cable Bus is basically a Gondola which is part of the public transportation system in that section of Mexico City. It was our first time riding it. Tracy rode with us for a short ride up the hill and back. Then he took the car and met us at the end of a longer Cable Bus route. It was fun to see the view of the city from up there. The part of the city it goes over is more residential and doesn’t have tall skyscrapers. I liked looking down inside the walls of people’s houses and seeing their yards, patios, and laundry. It was like getting a sneak peek into the lives of ordinary people.






Every year on September 19, all of Mexico has an earthquake drill at 12:20. In 1985 a major earthquake hit the country on that day at that time. Then another one hit on that day in 2017. So this morning we had a drill and everyone on our floor had to walk down ten flights of stairs. Ron had gone home to get something, so he missed the drill. After it was over, I looked at all the people who would be vying for the elevators to get back to their offices, and decided to go home and have lunch with Ron before we returned to the office. About half an hour later, we got on the elevator at Teca Once on our way back to the office. When the doors opened in the lobby, Layla, the manager of Teca Once, waved at us wildly to get off the elevator. Her eyes were wide and she was saying something really rapidly that I couldn't understand. She was also pointing up, and when I looked to where she was pointing, I saw that the chandelier in the lobby was swaying back and forth. We were having a real earthquake less than an hour after we had the drill. I was glad I wasn't in the office or I would have had to walk down ten flights of stairs again! We didn't feel the earthquake in the elevator, but other people in Teca Once and at the office building did. It was a large one, 7.7, centered just off the coast to the west of us. If you follow the news, you probabaly heard about it. There was material damage and one death in an area close to the epicenter, Tsunami warnings along the coast, and a power outage in part of Mexico City, but we are fine in our part of the city.

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