Residents of Mexico have been living in such fear these due to escalating drug cartel violence, that some Mexican cities are moving their Independence Day celebrations to safer locations and having festivities begin earlier or are boosting security measures. Other cities, however, are canceling their local bicentennial celebrations all together.
Mayor Oscar Luebbert Gutierrez of Reynosa announced that the battle cry of the Mexican War of Independence from Spain, “Grito de Indepencia”, and the surrounding festivities would be moved to a closed venue Wednesday. Normally, large crowds would gather in the main plaza to watch the ceremony performed on a City Hall balcony.
In Chihuahua’s Ciudad Juarez, the Grito ceremony has been cancelled all together. Though it brings 20,000 to 30,000 people, city authorities plan to broadcast a small ceremony on local TV and radio stations.
Typically, activities like Reynosa’s kick off around midnight, but this year it will start at 8:30pm with surrounding celebrations beginning even earlier at 5pm. Even though 2010 marks Mexico’s bicentennial it is expected that attendance will be quite a bit lower than prior years in spite of added safety precautions.
The Grito usually happens around midnight in towns all across Mexico’s 32 states. The official cry of independence is held in Mexico City at the Presidential Palace and those festivities will remain unchanged this year though many enhanced security measures are in place.
With the increase in violence, Mexican residents are opting to avoid the celebrations all together, not because they don’t care about their country’s Bicentennial Independence Day, but because they fear an attack similar to one that disrupted Grito celebrations in Michoacán’s state capital, Morelia, two years ago. Drug cartel members launched grenades into crowds, killing eight people and injuring a hundred others.
The attack was charged to The Zetas, who were still associated with the Gulf Cartel. Now they are battling each other in a horrific struggle for dominance in towns like Tamaulipas in northeast Mexico.
‘It is so sad that we cannot have our celebration like we used to,” said Juan Garza, a Mexico resident. ‘And this year is 200 years.’
Garza will not be making his annual trip to the main plaza this year with his children.
‘We will watch it through TV. It’s too dangerous.’