If there’s one way of really experiencing how a country likes to party, then it’s on Independence Day. What follows is a short story of my time in Oaxaca, Mexico. This is my last story about Oaxaca before moving on to Mazunte, one of my favourite places in the world.
|I want his hat!
Photo by uteart
The 16th of September is a special day in Mexico.
“You will see the city alive now, Oaxaca is the best place to see the fiesta,” Victor said, pointing to a photo of the manic Zocalo the previous year. I’d never witnessed an Independence Day before, so I was excited.
In the sixteenth century, Hernan Cortes started the Spanish conquest of Mexico. In 1810, Miguel Hidalgo, a Mexican joined by a group of liberals, decided to fight for their country’s freedom. They started their combat in Dolores and continued until they reached the capital later that year. The Spanish captured and executed
Hidalgo, but his spirit thrived as they battled on for the next ten years, until finally getting their back. Mexicans celebrate the start of the fight for liberty as their Independence Day. Independence
|Oaxaca getting ready!
Photo by rflorman
Preparations in the Zocalo commenced a week in advance. The vibe was unlike my local town’s dull annual fair; I’d never seen such enthusiasm in a city. Locals organised stalls and hung up red, green, and white decorations. Mariachis serenaded the public more than usual, getting ready for the main event. Every night new bands and street performers practised in the Zocalo.
“My ex-girlfriend Maria comes to visit tonight. Do you want to drink with us?” Victor said the afternoon before the main event.
“Sure, why not. Might be fun.”
“Fun yes, if I can get rid of her.” We arranged to meet in a couple of hours and I went for a quick wander on my own.
There was a real buzzing atmosphere in town. The Zocalo smelt of barbequed meat and firecrackers and was full of joyful, smiling, and well-dressed Mexicans. Even Gringos wore their best clothes. Parents walked with their skipping children. Young couples strolled hand in hand. Elderly people, who normally bickered and complained, laughed and enjoyed the celebrations. Young adolescents waited in front of the stages in the square while organisers made final sound adjustments. After drinking a beer on my own while watching a group of lads try to chat up some ladies I headed back to pick up Victor.
Avenue Independencia was full of excited people blowing whistles and waving Mexican flags as a brass band patrolled towards the Zocalo. As they passed, everyone cheered and saluted. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up. What a transformation of the city.
“Did you see that?” I asked Victor as he stood on the steps of the hostel.
“Of course, what you think I’m deaf and stupid?”
“Do I have to answer that?” He slapped my head. “Is your lady here?”
“No not yet, and she is not my lady,” he said, firmly. Victor and Maria had left on bad terms and he was annoyed that she was coming. “It’s the best night to find a woman and I’m with her; she always does this to me.”
Maria was a petite, attractive, and friendly lady. Victor seemed pleased to see her; perhaps there was still a chance. We left for the centre.
At the Zocalo an energetic Mexican rock band was entertaining a massive jumping crowd. We stood bopping up and down, swigging ice-cold beers, and trying to make idle chit chat, but the loud music drowned out our conversation.
Maria fluttered her eyes at Victor and occasionally hugged him. He was having none of it; at least for the moment.
|Mezcal worm…get it down ya!
Photo by lilita
When some drunk teenagers started throwing water about we ducked into a packed bar. With our first round we got a small complementary bottle of mezcal with a worm inside.
“You drink the gusano before?” Maria asked me.
“No, what’s it like?”
“It’s an aphrodisiac, make you hot,” she said, gazing at Victor.
“Sounds good to me, ready Victor?” I said as we chinked bottles.
I felt the stiff and slimy worm slide down the back of my throat. Maria laughed as we grimaced.
“That wasn’t so bad,” I said to Victor.
“You are dangerous,” he said, trying to hold the drink down.
“Come on, it’s Independence Day, have another,” Maria said. So we did. Three shots later the worms were making their magic and we were feeling slightly smashed.
Independence Day arrived. There was no formal countdown like at New Years, everyone just continued talking and drinking. When we stepped outside, the fresh air hit us. The party was in full bloom. The Zocalo heaved with fans jumping to the music. Fireworks lit up the sky. A huge beer fight broke out in the square. Victor had Maria glued to his side, which, thanks to the worms working round his body injecting alcohol into his veins, he now seemed quite happy about. Her plan had worked. After a little while we got separated and I ended up in a disco on the outskirts of town with a bunch of university students. I think it was a good night, but my memories are slightly hazy.
That was my last party in Oaxaca. Next was Mazunte.