But first, a bit of background. If you are intrigued, Wikipedia has a good account of the Mexican War of Independence. In a nutshell, we celebrate our freedom from Spanish colonial authorities, which started in the dawn of September 16, 1810, when Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, a roman catholic priest in the city of Dolores, Hidalgo, declared independence from the Spanish government in what is known as El Grito de Dolores, or the Cry of Dolores. In modern times, El Grito is re-enacted close to midnight of September 15 all over Mexico by local authorities, from city mayors from their offices, all the way to Mexico’s President Felipe Calderón from Mexico City’s famous Zócalo.

As joyful an occasion as the Fourth of July in the US, there are many ways in which you can participate locally. Here are a few ideas and scheduled events:

September 14

Mexico commemorates National Charro Day. Locally, a traditional parade usually travels through Puerto Vallarta’s El Centro, starting at Plaza Lázaro Cárdenas in Emiliano Zapata and continuing north along the Malecón and Morelos St. The parade begins around 11 and it is an excellent opportunity to pull out your camera and capture candid shots of men and women dressed in traditional attire.

September 15

There are a series of civic ceremonies throughout the day at Puerto Vallarta’s Main Plaza, starting with a salute to the Mexican Flag early in the morning. The traditional ceremony begins sometime before midnight, with Puerto Vallarta’s mayor re-enacting El Grito. This is followed by a spectacular display of fireworks all over the bay and a popular party for all Vallartenses in the Main Plaza and the Malecón.

September 16

A civic-military parade takes place along the same streets as Friday’s Charro parade. This time, including local military forces, along with several bands from local elementary schools.