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Signs and wonders… the grito

16 September 2019

Back when there was a Soviet Union, foreign observers — having little else to go on… used to try to impose meaning on why stood where on the reviewing stand at the annual Moscow May Day parade… and, bizarrely, intelligence analysts took seriously every detail, for who was standing closest to the Premier to which officials were wearing hats (and what kind of hat they might be wearing).

In Mexico, while politicians play close to the vest, and aren’t always as transparent as one might like, but it is a bit easier to get a feel for who is in, who is out, what is on the president’s mind.  But, still… even in the “4th Transformation” era of “transparency” Mexico watchers (let alone intelligence analysts) could do worse than interpreting where and what is done by the leadership overseeing Mexico’s great patriotic display for a sense of what might be in the offing.

The annual independence day grito is, of course, a ceremonial commemoration of Miguel Hidalgo y Costalla’S “Grito de Dolores” the night of 15.16 September 1810.  The custom of ringing the bell and leading a shoutout to an independent Mexico was introduced by Emperor Maximiliano, who was just bright enough to know that whatever it was Hidalgo actually said had something to do with the perfidious French (Napoléon having installed his brother on the Spanish throne) and something about death to bad government… which Max was just smart enough to avoid bringing back into style.  Even after the perfidious French and the bad government of Maxiliano (and Max himself) were dead and gone, the custom lived on, developing not just as a ritual exercise with strict protocols (although, being Mexico, once the short ceremony is completed, it turns into a giant block party) but as a rough guide to the administration’s ambitions.

The whole ritual takes under ten minutes, mostly out of sight of the public… an honor guard in dress uniform marches through the hallways of the National Palace, presents the flag to the waiting President, who is dressed in his sash of office, salutes, and the President steps out on the center balcony of the palace, to ring the bell hanging a above the balcony, waves the flag and starts a ritual shout and response … ending with three “Viva México!”

The President then wave to the crowd, normally surrounded by … spouse, children, cronies, party hacks, campaign contributors, the presumed heir-presumptive … to receive the public’s adulation.  I said, “normally”.  AMLO was accompanied on the balcony only by  (not premera dama, merely wife) Doña Beatriz. Is this a sign that AMLO intends to “rule” without input from advisers, or that he is not beholden to the usual collection of cronies and hacks?  Or, maybe he’s just cheap?  In the past, the President usually hosted a big dinner party for the balcony guests … who sometimes appeared with their drinks still in their hands… but with a austerity budget meant to squeeze out of the government every centavo, the dinner party went by the wayside this year.

And, does it mean that the administration is pro-feminist that AMLO began the grito by reversing the gender order when starting the grito?  The Spanish language, having gender, uses the male plural for mixed gender plural possessives.  Until the Fox Administration, addressing the citizens, presidents said “Mexicanos”.  Fox began saying “Mexicanos y Mexicanas…” but tonight, AMLO address the gathered throng, “Mexicanas y Mexicanos”… promoting women?

As a sop to women’s history, the last few years, along with shout-outs for the two fighting Padres, Hidalgo and Morelos, and the soldier Ignacio Allende, there is usually Josefa Domingez mentioned in there., though other than having sponsored the reading club that was the cover for the planned 1810 uprising (which didn’t go as planned anyway), didn’t play all that dramatic a role in the independence movement.  AMLO added one for Leonora Viicaro.. the propagandist, gun-runner, spy and contributor to the “Sentiments of the Nation”, the Mexican version of the Declaration of Independence.  Oh.. and a generic Viva! for the “”fathers and mothers” of independence, and for the “unknown heroes”.

There were no gritos for any specific programs, or policies, as in past years… for highway construction, or, as one might have expected, for something like the “4th Transformation” or “republican austerity” (both shorthand for cutting the budget overhead, and a more, theoretically egalitarian state), although there were specific shoutouts for the indigenous community and for “our culture”… as well as more generic human values: liberty, justice,  democracy, national sovereignty, and universal peace.

It’s the last two… national sovereignty and universal peace… that may indicate policy.  After bending over for the Trump Administration on immigration through Mexico, both in curtailing migrants coming across the southern border, and in not fighting all that hard against the “Stay in Mexico” policy the US Administration has tried to justify as a bureaucratic necessity to control the influx of asylum seekers, getting a crowd of 100 plus thousand citizens shouting “VIVA!” for the country defending it’s own interests and right is no small thing.  Perhaps a warning?

Nor is it — as the nation seeks to undo 12 years of fratricide on behalf of the U.S. “war on (some) drugs” and continuing pressure to join some Quixotic crusade to overthrow the elected government of Venezuela and to support various imperialist adventures — simply a cliche to ask for, and receive, a hearty viva for universal peace.






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