>> Thursday, February 11, 2010
From an article by Christine Delsol in the San Franciso Chronicle:
In a country famous for turning an obscure saints' day into a weeklong bacchanalia, just imagine the revelry this fall as Mexico celebrates what President Felipe Calderón has declared the Año de la Patria ("Year of the Nation"). This year brings two huge milestones: the bicentennial of independence from Spain, and the centennial of the Mexican Revolution. The official countdown — marked by a towering red digital clock in Mexico City's Zócalo — began on Independence Day last September. And just to make it interesting, the whole celebration has an undercurrent of wariness, as some Mexicans take a prophetic view of history and fear a new cataclysm as they close in on another hundred years.
The national organizing committee got to work in March of 2007, and the fruits of their labor include art exhibitions in numerous capitals and cultural events in hundreds of cities around the world, the creation of historic routes, the opening of 10 new archaeological sites and the remodeling of dozens of museums. Calderón laid the cornerstone last spring for El Arco Bicentenario ("the Bicentennial Arch"), which will rise over the Paseo de la Reforma much as the Arc de Triomphe towers over Paris' Champs-Elysées, after which Reforma was modeled. Ironically, it will share a venue with the Angel of Independence monument, built in 1910 by Profirio Díaz, whose iron-fisted dictatorship begat the revolution.
And that's just on the national level. Many states have their own bicentennial commissions that are restoring historical buildings and sites, improving roads and parks and planning special events. Guanajuato, cradle of the independence movement, is building a 245-acre Bicentennial Expo Park that will host four months of cultural celebrations beginning in July. It's all a lead-in to the official blow-outs: Sept. 16, when Miguel Hidalgo's "El Grito" called for Mexicans to take up arms against the Spanish government in 1810, and Nov. 20, the day Francisco I. Madero called for a national revolt against Porfirio Díaz.
To a visitor, the most concrete evidence of the goings-on right now are the burgundy-colored Ruta 2010 signs on major highways that mark itineraries linking the most important sites of the revolution and independence movements. There are no fewer than 22 separate routes, organized by military campaigns, through 11 states. Maps are available for most routes on the Ruta 2010 Web site.