I remember my first year in the United States, when September came, I was so excited to be able to celebrate Mexico's Independence Day in one of the many great Mexican restaurants in New York City. But imagine my disappointment when I realized that none of these restaurants celebrated this holiday--or even showed the traditional "Grito de Dolores" that takes place in Mexico the night of September 15. What surprised me the most was than when I finally did find a restaurant that celebrated the independence day, people gave me that "What? Huh?" face when I asked if they'd be showing the televised Grito!

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With time, I came to find out that in the U.S., May 5--or Cinco de Mayo (the day that conmemorates the Battle of Puebla)--is more commonly celebrated than September 16, Mexico's actual Independence Day. And some gringos have the completely wrong information about our national holiday. So based on some of the questions and comments I've received through the years about this holiday, I've put together this little list of the 5 things everyone needs to know about my adored national holiday.

Image via Gary Denness/flickr

Our big day is NOT Cinco de Mayo 1

Our big day is NOT Cinco de Mayo

Images via spcbrass/flickr, Gary Denness/flickr

Yeah, I know that many people break out the sombreros and the tequila to celebrate the 5th of May (or Cinco de Mayo as it's most commonly known), and think that it's our great Independence holiday. But the reality is that our Independence Day is September 16, the day that marks the beginning of the fight for independence from Spain in 1810, and spearheaded by the priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla and General Ignacio Allende.


We don't start the day with a Happy Hour 2

We don't start the day with a Happy Hour

Images via Gary Denness/flickr, Johnnie Utah/flickr

Our celebration doesn't begin with one big happy hour, but instead with the ceremony "El Grito" which starts each year at 11 p.m. the night of September 15. All the heads of power come out on to the balcony of the governmental palace or the national palace carrying the Mexican flag to deliver a message that represents the call that priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla made all those years ago to his followers to rebel against the reign of Spain.


Speedy Gonzales is not a national hero 3

Speedy Gonzales is not a national hero

Images via Thomas Hawk/flickr, jwolff/flickr

On this day we don't celebrate Speedy Gonzales, Cantinflas or el Chavo del Ocho; we do, however, celebrate our actual national independence heroes, who are mainly, the priest Don Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, José María Morelos y Pavón, Josefa Ortiz de Domínguez, Ignacio Allende, Juan Aldama, and Mariano Matamoros, who in fact are cheered each year during our traditional Grito de Dolores ceremony.

We celebrate with tamales, not burritos 4

We celebrate with tamales, not burritos

Images via phil_g/flickr, Analog Weapon/flickr

We don't celebrate today with burritos, nachos with cheese or chilli con carne, but with some delicious pambazos, pozole, tostadas, tacos dorados, chalupas, sopes, tamales, among other authentic traditional dishes!


We celebrate with fireworks too! 5

We celebrate with fireworks too!

Image via Gary Denness/flickr

The end of the El Grito ceremony on September 15 gives way to a huge outdoor festival that includes folkloric music and an amazing display of fireworks, just like the one done for the United State's own Independence Day celebrations. The only difference is that our party lasts all night! A showy military party starts up the next morning on September 16!