Last night I exited my house and headed downtown to the sounds of explosions and quacking sounds exuded from unknown toys in unseen mouths. The closer I got to downtown the thicker the crowds of pedestrians grew and the brighter the braking lights of cars became. Then, the road was closed with a single metal portable wall. Behind it officers and marines pointed their machine guns to the ground and looked at the chaos that swirled in front of them.
Bobbing worls or green, white, and green screamed, “Viva Mexico!” The celebration of Dia del Grito, Day of the Scream. Vendors pinched sidewalks and shut-down streets to sell toys, clothes, and Mexican treats. Men walked through the crowds demonstrating their various noisemakers while balloons of Mexican flags floated behind them. Children pulled on their parents arms to them to buy sticky beards and mustaches. Lines of 20-odd teenagers held onto each others hips like a wind-up snake toy powered by hormones doing the congo.
I was trying to make my way to Carla in La Fuente, Guadalajara’s oldest cantina, but the crowds were too great. The cantina was located in the main plaza where the fireworks and patriotic risings were happening. The crowds shuffled into lines for men and women to walk through metal detectors and be searched by police and military. Thinking of the twisting lanes that cows through before being slaughtered I paid attention to my wallet and watched as the metal detector repeatedly flashed red and signaled a metallic presence on every person who passed through it. As I crossed through the oppressive symbol acting as a security device a line of young men held their hands behind their hands as police rubbed them down and a dog sniffed at their lower bodies. Knowing I was probably supposed to join the line to get frisked I walked towards the festivities without glancing at any authorities and avoided the whole routine.
I was in and closer to enjoying cold beer and tequila with Carla and her friends, but I was farther than I thought. Bullhorns blurted praised for Mexico and spectators squished themselves into an impassable mass. Blocking Carla and me was a plaza full of Mexicans working themselves into a united force of pride and patriotism. I connected myself to one of the teenage congo lines and tried to finagle my way through. “BOOM!!” I ducked my head at the sound of an explosion. I turned around and saw streaks of sparkles and light flying through the air. This was why they had gathered. To commemorate and reenact Hidalgo’s ringing of the bells to declare Mexico’s independence from Spain. A declaration that was followed by twenty years of war until Mexico was finally free.
Yellow dandelions exploded and fizzled into red and green stars as they blew away. Pigeons seemed to burst out of the shells and flapped across the smoky moon above the crowd. Noisemakers filled the seconds between the colorful explosions and following booms of the fireworks. The cathedral had stood dark and proud before dynamic shadows clapped onto its face, a fitting tribute to the country’s religious foundations. Hidalgo was a priest and his famous grito had come from the roof of a church. When the celebration was over, the crowd cleared out of the plaza faster then he could have shouted “Viva Mexico!” twenty times.
I had a conversation with Carla about Mexico and their freedom and I asked what is the point of declaring freedom if you aren’t going to use it. What use is freedom if you have to have extreme security at the celebration of your freedom. What good is freedom if it brought you government corruption, and an enslaving fear of narcos? What has it provided you if you don’t even have a clean drinking system? Sure it feels good to say, “We’re free,” but what does it give you other than a feeling?
But it’s easy to criticize another country’s freedom. The United States, probably the more known country to ever declare freedom from another and definitely the largest advocate for freedom suffers even more from its freedom. The original intentions and foundations of our country are so far removed from today’s world that it is difficult to say where they went. While no other country can claim any real dominance over us we are still controlled by something other than ourselves. Our media is controlled and manipulative. Our health care system is one of the worst in the developed world. Our transportation system is acenine and expensive. And our food can barely make the claim that it is food. But worst of all our political system, the only entity with the power to fix these problems, is enslaved to the people responsible for all these faults in our country. Where once we were owned by a country, we are now owned by corporations and their interests. And as long as they let us buy the things we want from them we don’t mind giving them our money, our minds, and control of our freedom. Individual freedom in the United States has crossed over from citizens to corporations, who now use citizen resources to remove freedoms around the globe.
The conversation with Carla shifted to Mexican labor, a product of the evil of the United States’ freedom. We have used our freedom to control other countries with the power and greed of economic freedom. Mexico has no real export other than its labor because all of its products go straight to the US. Latin America is enslaved by poverty because of the US’s foreign economic policies. But Latin America isn’t the US’s only victim. Millions of Iraqis and Americans have been killed for corporate interests. That corporate freedom is spending our resources at an incredible rate for oil, a product that increases our domestic costs of living and increases our health problems. And because of this war, we do not have the resources for the elements that can grant us back our freedom: employment, health, and education.
It’s uncharacteristic to write about your own country during a discussion on another country’s freedom. But since the idea of freedom flows through my American blood I felt compelled to do so. But I’ll bring it back to Mexico by quoting the slogan of Universidad Autonomas de Guadajalara. “Science and Freedom.”