Katie Putnam, Mexico Institute, 9/17/2010
Yesterday was a clear and sunny day in Mexico City. Most schools and workplaces were closed for the Independence Day long weekend, and many relished the break and the nice weather after the late night grito of September 15th. People were generally enthusiastic about the celebrations commemorating 200 years of independence from Spain and the 100th anniversary of its revolution; most thought the government spent too much money, but that did not prevent them from enjoying the festivities.
Thousands of people attended the celebration in the zócalo and along Avenida Reforma in Mexico City, and many others convened in localities, including Coyoacán, where your author echoed the calls of “Viva México!” Tricolor Mohawks and wigs were bought and worn enthusiastically, as well as fake eyelashes and face paint. Many men wore the hats, and women the long skirts and blouses, of the revolutionary period, and, as always, there were plenty of Mexican soccer jerseys on hand. Fireworks lit up the sky for hours, with cheers ringing out all over the city.
Mexico City, it seems, is a bit removed from the climate of fear that grips other areas of the country. Celebrations weren’t cancelled here, as they were in Ciudad Juárez, where many residents crossed the border to celebrate in El Paso, and were well attended, unlike in Morelia, where a grenade attack killed eight and injured hundreds of others during the 2008 festivities.
Nevertheless, there is not an overwhelming sense of optimism here to match the cheerful celebrations. People feel insecure, both in their economic prospects and in their personal safety. Unemployment and underemployment are high, and people aren’t particularly confident in the current government’s ability to improve that; nor are they completely swayed by the political opposition’s prospects, though in polls they seem willing to give them a chance. They admire President Felipe Calderón’s tenacity in fighting organized crime, but are not convinced his government will succeed. They are alternatively horrified and resigned to the high levels of violence, including an attack against two journalists yesterday in Juárez.
My friends here enjoyed the celebrations and felt a strong orgullo mexicano (Mexican pride), especially in the rich heritage being commemorated these past few days. But the mood is much more subdued than in the past; there is a palpable sense of pessimism and lack of confidence in what the future will bring.