It’s not “Yankee, Go Home!” any longer. It’s “Come on Home, Yankee!” Any Yankee. You, me, any.

Which home? Guanajuato, Mexico, seat of Mexican Independence – a spiritual home for Mexicans living in the US and for many Mexican Americans.

This is true, in many ways, for this writer as well, tu servidor—as the Mexicans so nicely say, “your servant.” My spouse is from Mexico and I have bilingual, Mexican American children, and I have studied and taught Mexican politics and culture for over a half a century. 

Guanajuato, all Mexico, and many in the Rio Grande Valley of southern Texas, celebrated this past Thursday, 16th of September. I hung out my Mexican flag, Dieciseis de Septiembre! Note: Cinco de Mayo is not Mexican Independence Day, but was important, years later, as the birth of renewed patriotism, the defeat of French troops in Puebla. Those few years were important to the U.S. as well, keeping the French busy, lest they help the rebellious, racist U.S. South in their treasonous war against the United States government. We should remember, get those things straight, put them in context.

For those of us here in the Rio Grande Valley, especially the central County of Hidalgo, that War for Independence and the magical city of Guanajuato merit special attention. Our name came from Padre Hidalgo, the “Father of Mexican Independence.” He was priest, professor, intellectual, leader of the movement for independence from Spain. He issued the famous “Grito,” or shout for liberty, repeated nowadays at midnight before the 16th, first emanating from the town of Dolores Hidalgo. The bell that rang in Dolores Hidalgo now rings in the main Zócalo, or plaza, in downtown Mexico City.

Near Guanajuato, the military fight for independence began to accelerate. In many ways, Mexicans are still fighting for their country. Proponents of the administration now in office swear “No Vuelvan Los Corruptos!,” – Don’t Let the Corrupt Ones Return – speaking of derrechistas, or right-wingers who held power for over 70 years in the 20th and 21st centuries, until the last presidential election, July 2018 (Regeneración, Febrero 2021).  

The past is prologue. In historical Guanajuato, one can journey up a mountain side in a funicular to the statue of Pípila. That strong, indígena miner, with a huge stone slab on his back for protection from Spanish firepower, led campesinos and other insurgents to the door of the Alhóndiga de Granaditas, the granary of Guanajuato, where royalist troops were amassed, September 16, 1810. He lit it afire with his torch—the “Torch of Liberty!” Hidalgo was later captured and executed by the Spanish, but the War for Independence continued, until final victory in 1821.  

The charming, picturesque city is now much calmer, welcoming me, welcoming many other visitors; they are preparing for the internationally famous “Cervantino,” beginning mid-October, an homage to Miguel Cervantes, featuring the world’s finest in performing and visual arts. This year, special attention is paid to the Mexican state of Coahuíla, near to the Rio Grande Valley, and to the sister Republic of Cuba (art and dances abounding). You can fly from McAllen (via Houston) for $300! Senior citizens can go direct from McAllen (escala, transfer in Monterrey), for only $100 U.S., RT, Omnibus. 

Covid-19 plagues Mexico, as it does the U.S., but literally all the residents there (and on transport leaving and arriving town) use their cubrebocas—masks, whether in the streets or in shops or restaurants. So many now offer the long-awaited Chile en Nogada, only in this Fall season, a stuffed, Chile Poblano, in the colors of the Mexican flag, filled with beef, raisins and nuts, covered with a walnut white sauce, sprinkled with red Granada (Pomegranate) seeds. Now, what was I saying? Oh, sorry, the drool dripped on the keys. To continue . . . oh yes, you are safe in Guanajuato. You will have a delightful time, Cervantino or other.

For now, among other delights, explore the secluded home and gardens of artist Olga Costa and her husband, artist José Chávez Morado, now a museum featuring their own art, their collections of folk and pre-Hispanic art, and an exhibition of painting, sculpture, drawing and engraving from the recent Bienal, by and about female themes. Rushing waters below in the riochuelo, hugetrees, bamboo, and other plants calm the soul, as you contemplate the art and nature.

Or, you can venture above Guanajuato, to “La Bufa,” a huge cliff, high above the town, observing, even feeling the power of that “majestuoso peñon”—majestic crag, full of cristales, cuarzo, and other mystical stones. Or, down below, if you dare, enter to see, “curioso visitante, la momia que no cumplió del todo con el designio bíblico de volverse polvo . . . “ in El Museo de las Momias.

I preferred, being more political than mystical, the Alhóndiga de Granaditas. There, relive in your mind, “la confusión y terror . . . lamentos, delirio . . . of the “sacrificio humana” seen by “El Pípila,” (citations from Juan Octavio Torija, Guanajuato: Leyendas, Historias, y Sucedidos, p. 11, Aquilinus Ediciones, Guanajuato. Guanajuato, México, 2020). A bonus: you can read and improve your Spanish, before, during or after the trip, if/when you go. Vale la pena—it is worth the effort. 

In addition, worthy of thought, is reflection on our own nearby, sister Republic, contemplating the positive role it plays in the world, and its importance to us. There is value in appreciating—and, when and however we can—helping Mexico economically and educationally; e.g., tourism. Traveling there, you will see (or, for those who have ventured to Mexico over the years, you will remember) they are such a hard-working people.

Mexico has a working, mixed economic system, bits of socialism interspersed with large amounts of capitalism, as does the U.S. Problems? Debates? Indeed. What country doesn’t? But lots of optimism, amid “una crisis mundial sanitaria, económica y social, en tiempos oscuros e inciertos” – a worldwide health, economic and social crisis, in dark and uncertain times (Armando Herrera Silva, Secretario de Cultura de San Luis Potosí, in Bienal: Olga Costa, Fondo Regional para la Cultura y las Artes—FORCA—Guanajuato, 2021). 

You may not have learned some of the history of Mexico’s historical generosity in attitudes and policies, such as extending help to refugees from right wing regimes, over time (Spain, Chile, Nicaragua, e.g., people fleeing the wrath of U.S.-backed Somoza regime). Lest we forget, Mexico was also extremely helpful in settling civil wars in Central America. In today’s international scene, Mexico sends oil and economic help to Cuba, amid its struggles to overcome the 70 year U.S. boycott. (One is reminded of the parable of the Good Samaritan—who truly loves?) Mexico’s government has, more recently, welcomed diverse groups of Afghan refugees, such as journalists and their families (Reuters, 30 Aug 21). 

I am thankful to have Mexico as a good neighbor. I think back to my studies, exalting the friendship of President Benito Júarez and President Abraham Lincoln, and, more recently, the mutual admiration of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and President Lázaro Cárdenas, and Mexico’s help to the US during World War II. I trust that goodwill may improve, to the benefit of both countries. So, Viva los dos Estados Unidos—yes, the two “United States” . . . Los Estados Unidos de México y los Estados Unidos de América! (the USA). VIVA!     

Editor’s Note: The above guest column was penned by writer and academic, Gary Joe Mounce. The column appears in The Rio Grande Guardian International News Service with the permission of the author. Mounce can be reached by email via: [email protected]

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