Mexico celebrates 200 years with huge fiesta

Thu Sep 16, 2010 5:12am EDT
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By Patrick Rucker

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Tens of thousands of Mexicans thronged into the streets on Wednesday to celebrate the bicentenary of Mexico's fight for independence from Spain, even as mounting drug violence took a toll on national pride.

Planes painted the sky with the national colors of green, white and red as thousands of Mexico City residents watched a huge parade down the main Reforma avenue heading to a nighttime fireworks display at the huge Zocalo central square.

Hundreds of smaller celebrations took place across the country to the sounds of mariachi music, fireworks and with streets lined with Mexican flags.

Some revelers wore straw sombreros and stick-on mustaches, poking fun at a national stereotype, while the government sought to promote a more serious side with an open-air philharmonic orchestra.

Shortly before midnight, President Felipe Calderon gave the famous cry of the call to arms, known as "El Grito," in Mexico City, echoed by state governors and mayors in desert and jungle towns and cities across Mexico.

"Viva Mexico!" is a current-day twist on rebel priest Miguel Hidalgo's original call to arms in 1810. Mexicans eventually achieved their independence from Spain in 1821.

Despite a slow recovery from last year's deep recession, many cities organized dazzling celebrations, with eight metric tons of fireworks for Mexico City alone, which lit up the city center. Mexican media put the party's cost at $40 million.

Among the first marchers were nearly 250 teenagers carrying replicas of native, paddle-shaped nopal cacti on their heads.   Continued...

<p>People gather at Zocalo Square as Mexico marks the 200th anniversary of the day rebel priest Manuel Hidalgo set it on the path to independence in Mexico City September 15, 2010. REUTERS/Eliana Aponte</p>