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No, Not Cinco de Mayo: It's Mexican Independence Day

Written by May Phan Category: Culture Issue: September 2017
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“Dieciséis de Septiembre” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it as “Cinco de Mayo,” but when you’ve been oppressed by the Spanish for a century too long, potential holiday names for the future are not the biggest priority.

Some gringos may think Cinco de Mayo is synonymous with Mexican Independence Day, but in reality the two are separate occasions. In fact, the latter is not nearly as festive or margarita-filled in the United States, even though it’s a much bigger deal for our neighbors to the south.

Cinco de Mayo, actually a minor holiday in Mexico, celebrates the unlikely Mexican victory over French forces in 1862 at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War.

Mexican Independence Day, on the other hand, commemorates the day a Catholic priest named Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla called on his people to free themselves from Spanish rule in 1810. This day marked the start of a revolt that would trigger the Mexican War of Independence. It’s a huge event – there are parades, festivals and el grito (the cry) for independence in town squares across the country. In the United States and here in Phoenix, where at least 28 percent of our population is of Mexican descent? Not so much.

Feel free to mark the occasion with guacamole, though—there’s nothing wrong with celebrating some centuries-old victoria mexicana with some good food. Or go the extra mile at these events around the Valley celebrating this Saturday, September 16:

Rockin’ Taco Street Fest
Indulge in way-too-many (or just enough?) varieties of tacos to appeal to your heart’s desire, but don’t eat too much, or you won’t have space for churros and cerveza. General admission is $12 at the door, but you can buy tickets online for $8. Enjoy the live music and dance – and yes, there are piñatas.
12 p.m. - 9 p.m. Dr. AJ Chandler Park, 178 E Commonwealth Ave., Chandler, 602-276-2499, rockintacoaz.com.

Fiestas Patrias at Casino Arizona
Enjoy food, festivities and live music from Little Joe y La Familia, Los Texmaniacs, Ruben Ramos & the Mexican Revolution and more at this 21-and-up outdoor celebration.
5 p.m.-12 a.m. $30-$75. Casino Arizona, 524 North 92nd St., Scottsdale, 480-850-7777, casinoarizona.com.

VIVA Mexico! A Celebration of Mexican Independence
You'll get it all: a fabulous Latin drag show, jello shots and live mariachi music to end your night. Plus, it's for a good cause – it's meant to raise money for Mulligan's Manor, a group home for at-risk LGBTQ teens.
9 p.m.-11:30 p.m. Oz Bar, 1804 W Bethany Home Rd., Phoenix, 602-242-5114, imperialcourtaz.org.

Hispanic Heritage Month
Mexican Independence Day kicks off Hispanic Heritage Month, so if you already have Saturday plans but want to experience Hispanic culture, you can still check out these upcoming events:

Brazilian Day Festival – September 23
Watch samba dancers, capoeira masters and more in the Valley's largest celebration of Brazilian music and culture. Stay until sundown, when the Day Festival transforms into a night time Carnival. No passport necessary.
2 p.m.-9 p.m. $6-$12. Ages 2 and under are free. Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, 7380 E 2nd St., Scottsdale, 602-518-4145, braziliandayarizona.com.

Tempe Tardeada Festival – October 8
Roll your own tortillas and kick your heels up learning ballet folklorico at Tempe's 19th Annual Hispanic Heritage Festival. This all-ages celebration features art-and-crafts, a game truck and—as always—good food.
12 p.m.-8 p.m. Free. Tempe Community Complex, 3500 S Rural Rd., Tempe, 480-350-4311, tempe.gov.

Surprise Fiesta Grande – October 14
Taste authentic Mexican food and celebrate Surprise's cultural heritage in this all-ages street festival. Check out the classic car show with your familia and enjoy the mariachi and banda music.
3 p.m.-9 p.m. Free. Villanueva Recreation Complex, Hollyhock St. and Grand Ave., Surprise, 623-222-2000, surprizeaz.gov.