It’s Not Cinco de Mayo

Today is el Día de la Independencia de México, or Mexican Independence Day. A lot of Americans think Mexican Independence Day falls on the fifth of May, but they would be wrong. (Cinco de Mayo actually commemorates a battle victory in Mexico’s war with France during the 1860s.)

No, Mexican Independence Day is on September 16. It was on this day in 1810 that a famous priest in the town Delores, Mexico rang the church bell and issued a call to arms. His shout, “The Cry of Delores,” marked the beginning of Mexico’s war for independence from Spain. If it weren’t for the coronavirus pandemic, I could have had a chance to see the re-enactment; every year on the eve of the holiday, the president of Mexico delivers “el grito” (the shout) from the balcony of the National Palace in Mexico City. But unsurprisingly, the festivities for 2020 have been mostly cancelled or virtual.

It has been a quiet Independence Day, an unusual day off in the middle of the week, since American embassies and consulates abroad take both U.S. federal holidays and host country holidays. This is my seventh week in Ciudad Juárez, and my fifth week being physically present in the office.

Talking a night walk earlier this month

The weather has cooled somewhat, from daytime temperatures in the 100s to the high 80s and low 90s with the occasional late summer storm. V left for a business trip just over a month ago, and unfortunately, still hasn’t concluded his business. It sucks and is lame being apart, especially here in this empty house without our household effects, and him sitting in a hotel. We are both safest staying where we are, though.

I have been very busy at work, and spend my free time resting or setting up the house the best I can with what I’ve got, or what I know isn’t coming in our effects and need to acquire for the specific layout of this place. V’s absence coupled with the pandemic, plus the difficult security situation in Juárez has meant I really have not gotten to know Juárez at all.

Our Community Liaison Office, or CLO, started a “Sabias Qué?” (Did You Know?) weekly e-series that I have really been liking. I feel like I have seen more of Juárez through those emails than I have seen in real life; all I really do is go to work, go to the grocery store, and go home. Oh wait, I went to Office Depot once for printer paper. And out twice to eat tacos. That’s *literally* it since the end of July.

Out for tacos with my former Spanish classmate and Ecuador tripmate J

It is kind of sad that this Independence Day there was no celebratory BBQ with colleagues, no fireworks, no flag-waving parades, no concerts, and no special “grito.” The Mexican Consulate in El Paso did host a virtual celebration with music and traditional dancing, among other festivities, but I had snagged consulate gym time – only one household at a time can use the gym, and for an hour at most – so I went and made the most of it.

My tour here is technically only two years, but like many other mid-level officers do, I decided – with Post’s concurrence and approval – to extend for a third year. I am just awaiting the formality of my re-paneling in Washington to make it official. Entonces, I should have two gritos left!

I will leave you with a couple of the CLO tidbits about historical things to see in Juárez, and hopefully at some point soon, it will be safe for me to go see them in person! The “X” I did see on July 31, the day we arrived, and snapped a behind-the-wheel shot as we headed for our new home…

We made it!

…and glimpsed it one day in August as I drove along the freeway in El Paso. It was kind of eerie that as I drove west, it was right there on the other side of the border fence. It seemed to suddenly rise up out of nowhere in my peripheral vision, which took me by surprise.

I had wondered if you can see Juárez from El Paso, and the answer is yes – the desert, the mountains, the miles and miles of modest homes – yes, it’s right there. I will take some pictures next time I go to El Paso.

Below you can read about the significance of the “X,” as well as one of Juárez’s proudest claims to fame: the invention of the glorious margarita.

Photo and text courtesy of U.S. Consulate General Ciudad Juárez CLO

Photo and text courtesy of U.S. Consulate General Ciudad Juárez CLO

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Sarah W Gaer

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