Mexico celebrates bicentennial with parade

19:48, September 16, 2010      

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A grand performance is held by the Mexican government to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the country's independence in Mexico City on Sept. 15, 2010, one day ahead of the Independence Day. (Xinhua/David de la Pas)

It was party time in Mexico City on Wednesday as hundreds of thousands of people took to the capital's streets to celebrate Mexico's 200th birthday.

President Felipe Calderon capped the lively celebration by ringing Mexico's original independence bell in the Zocalo square and delivering "El Grito," patterned on founding father Miguel Hidalgo's 1810 call to arms against Spain: "Long live independence. Long live the bicentennial ... Long live Mexico!"

Residents were treated to a 40 million U.S. dollar fiesta, two years in the making, that included a grand parade down the main Reforma Avenue and a massive fireworks display in Zocalo square, one of the largest plazas in the world.

"It's like a Carnival of Rio, plus an Olympic ceremony, plus Woodstock all put together on the same day," artistic director Marco Balich told The Associated Press. "For the cost of a warplane, you can celebrate the birthday of a country."

Before the parade started, about 50,000 Aztec dancers performed a pre-Colombian ritual known as the New Fire. The dance was used by the Aztecs to bring an end to a 52-year cycle, the basis of their calendar.

Despite their fears over Mexico's ongoing drug war, hundreds of thousands of people, many wearing green, white and red ribbons of the Mexican flag, thronged the capital's streets to blow horns and dance as the parade passed.

The 2.7 km parade, which featured 7,000 volunteers aboard more than 200 floats, represented Mexico City's largest celebration of the day.

The parade, which began at the Angel of Independence, a statue in the center of the city that commemorates Mexico's independence, included a bevy of serpent floats, marching cacti and 13-foot-tall warrior marionettes.

A float decorated with Diario de Mexico, a 19th century newspaper that promoted independence led the parade. Another float honored revolutionary hero Emiliano Zapata.

The parade also celebrated seven musical styles that Mexico has made popular, including the mambo and chachacha.

Five hours of concerts at multiple sites along the crowded Reforma Avenue followed the parade.

"Viva Mexico" was originally shouted out by Hidalgo, the rebel priest who began the independence revolution. His image was projected onto the facade of Mexico City's cathedral.

The fireworks show lit the sky above the National Palace with lights in the shape of Mexico's flag. Eight tons of fireworks were set off during the dazzling display.

Maria Romero, 95, said the national festivals give her a sense of belonging to Mexico. She recalled a poem, "Sweet Nation," written by Ramon Lopez Velarde, Mexico's national poet: "Fatherland: your surface is of corn, your mines the palace of the king of golds, your sky where herons glide and the green lightening a pilot."

Still, anxiety lingered over the festivities as Mexico, which has been shaken by an ongoing wave of violence that has killed 28,000 people since 2006, struggles with drug wars.

Military helicopters flew over Mexico City, heavily armed federal police and metal detectors greeted revelers. A crowd of 20,000 people was patrolled by 120,000 police and soldiers in the northeastern city of Monterrey, where two cartels openly fight for control.

In the western city of Morelia, the scene of a cartel-related grenade attack that killed eight people during the 2008 independence celebration, barely 2,000 showed up for this year's festivities.

Still, many Mexicans remain hopeful for their country's future.

"Before I was born this nation survived worse times," Romero said. "We were a Spanish colony, then the U.S. and then France wanted to invade us."

Source: Xinhua


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