Photo: President Felipe Calderon
Mexico is celebrating the 202nd anniversary of its independence from Spain this weekend, with a series of events scheduled to mark the occasion.
President Felipe Calderon led the traditional ceremony from the balcony of the National Palace Saturday night before some 100,000 people who gathered in Mexico City’s huge Zocalo plaza.
Calderon gave the “Grito,” the traditional Independence Day rallying cry, for the last time in his six-year term, which ends in December.
The ritual of the Grito, one of the most important for Mexicans, consists of national, state and municipal officials shouting “viva” for the heroes of the War of Independence and for Mexico.
The ceremony commemorates Father Miguel Hidalgo’s rallying cry early on the morning of Sept. 16, 1810, in the city of Dolores Hidalgo, in the central state of Guanajuato, the birthplace of the independence movement.
Calderon will hand over power in less than three months to Enrique Peña Nieto, of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, who won the July 1 presidential election.
The governors of Mexico’s 31 states also participated in ceremonies at which they gave the Grito to citizens gathered in plazas.
Security was tight at the ceremonies held around the country in an effort to prevent violent incidents, such as the 2009 grenade attack staged by members of Los Zetas, one of Mexico’s most powerful drug cartels, in 2009 in Morelia, the capital of the western state of Michoacan.
Eight people died and about 100 others were wounded in the attack, which targeted people attending the independence celebration in Morelia, Calderon’s birthplace.
Some 24,000 police officers will be deployed this weekend in Mexico City to prevent any outbreaks of violence, with 2,300 officers posted in the Zocalo for the ceremony at the National Palace, Federal District officials said.
The independence celebrations are normally a family affair in Mexico, with people enjoying traditional dishes, such as pozole, a type of stew, and tamales.
The Mexican army will stage its traditional parade on Sunday.