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9 Latin American Countries that Celebrate their Independence in September

Updated: Mar 6, 2023

September isn't just about sweata weatha

Ahhh September! Most people associate September with going back to school; the end of summer; the gateway to Fall and sweata weatha; and of course, the start of Hispanic Heritage month in the US. What many people don’t realize is that September has the largest amount of Independence Day celebrations of Latin American countries than any other month. 9 different countries celebrate their Independence in September, some as early as 1810, and some as recent as 1981. Let’s take a look at each of these countries and some of the fun things they do every year to commemorate their Independence.

Mexico- September 16, 1810. Independence from Spain

It all started when Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla issued the Grito de Dolores on September 16, 1810. Although his exact words have been lost to time, what is known is that Hidalgo rang the church bell and gave a rallying speech to the gathered parishioners. It was a cry for racial equality and revolt against the Spanish crown. That Grito is commemorated every year on the night of September 15th at the National Palace in Mexico City. The President shouts from the balcony, “Viva México! Viva la Independencia! Vivan los héroes!”

Throughout Mexico, as well as many cities in the US, there are large events that celebrate Mexican Independence Day with traditional folklorico dancing, parades, music, and fireworks. One of my favorite ways to celebrate is with Chiles en Nogada. The reason for this particular dish is because it is said to resemble the colors of the Mexican Flag. Whatever the reason, I am here for it! Yum!

Chile- September 18, 1810. Independence from Spain

On September 18, 1810, a cabildo abierto was held in Santiago to outline objectives to break out from under the Spanish crown. Although the following years were marred by infighting and civil war, the steps were taken on that day for Chile to become independent.

Referred to as the Dieciocho, the independence celebration can sometimes go for an entire week, depending on when the holiday falls during the week. Celebrations including Chilean rodeo, parades, fondas, and of course food and music. 2 very unique things about the celebrations in Chile are: it is mandatory to hang the Chilean flag from every building in the country on the 18th and 19th of September; and on the 19th of September there is the Great Military Parade of Chile which simultaneously commemorates the installation of the First Government Council, and marks the grand finale of the independence celebration. Overseen by the President in Chile, the parade attracts millions of visitors and is broadcast live on TV, radio, and the internet.

Guatemala- September 15, 1821. Independence from Spain

On September 15, 1821, the Captaincy General of Guatemala, which consisted of Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Honduras, officially proclaimed its independence from Spain at a public meeting in Guatemala City. Although steps were made in 1821, it wasn’t until over 25 years later on March 21, 1847 that Guatemala would finally be an independent republic.

One of the most unique ways to celebrate in Guatemala is to participate in an “antorcha”. The tradition dates back to 1959 and commemorates the memory of the horsemen who rode at breakneck speed to carry the news of independence from Guatemala down to El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. Each year on September 14th, there is a torch-lighting ceremony at the Obelisco in Guatemala City. Crowds will light their torches and carry them back to their communities. Some groups will run through the night in order to reach their communities on the 15th. Along with the various antorchas, don’t forget to enjoy some of the amazing food in Guatemala: tamales, Kak ‘lk, chuchitos, shucos, and pepían. You can devour some of these delicious treats while sitting back and watching the sky erupt in one of the many fireworks shows throughout the country.

Honduras – September 15, 1821. Independence from Spain

On September 15, 1821, Honduras, officially proclaimed its independence from Spain. After briefly joining the formation of the United Provinces of Central America, political frictions would lead Honduras to declare its absolute independence on November 5, 1838.

Día de la Independencia in Honduras is celebrated with parades, music, dancing, and food. Many families celebrate by gathering to enjoy the festivities and to enjoy Honduras national dish, plato típico. Plato típico include beef, beans, cabbage, platains, cream, and tortillas. If you are following one of the parades, and want something a little more portable, grab yourself a baleada- a folded tortilla with beans, cheese, and sour cream- so you can keep dancing and moving.

El Salvador – September 15, 1821. Independence from Spain

Along with its neighbors, El Salvador proclaimed its independence from Spain on September 15, 1821. El Salvador would go on to join the Federal Republic of Central America. When the federation dissolved in 1841, El Salvador became a sovereign state.

To celebrate their Independence Day, families and spectators gather to watch beautiful parades with student bands, patriotic floats, and dancers. In the larger cities, the parades end in larger arenas with additional festivities. The cities and towns are decorated with the national flag of El Salvador; many people dress in colorful and traditional clothing; and pupusas- El Salvador’s national dish- are enjoyed everywhere. At night, the sky is illuminated with beautiful fireworks.

Nicaragua – September 15, 1821. Independence from Spain

Nicaragua, like the other Central American countries, proclaimed its independence from Spain on September 15, 1821. Like its neighbor, Honduras, Nicaragua would declare its absolute independence in 1838 after briefly joining the formation of the United Provinces of Central America.

Out of all the countries on this list, Nicaragua definitely has the most expansive independence celebrations. The celebrations begin on September 1st and culminate on the 15th. The antorcha celebration that starts in Guatemala, arrives in Nicaragua on September 11th. The torch is carried through the country by the best students, and other outstanding individuals, in each of the municipalities. The total distance the torch is carried is over 240 miles and involves over 8000 people. On September 13th the torch will change hands between Nicaragua and Costa Rica. On September 14th there is a massive parade with over 100 schools from the capital, which includes over 15,000 students. The culmination of the celebrations happens on September 15th. There are large festivals throughout the country with music, food, and dancing.

Costa Rica – September 15, 1821. Independence from Spain

Costa Rica was granted independence from Spain on September 15, 1821. Costa Rica joined the Federal Republic of Central America, but they formally withdrew in 1838 and declared itself a sovereign nation.

The Independence celebrations begin on September 14th when the freedom torch arrives in Costa Rica from Nicaragua. At 6pm that evening, the radio stations broadcast the national anthem and the faroles parade begins. Faroles, lanterns, are an important part of the celebrations because they commemorate Dolores Bedoya, who in 1821 took only a lantern with the message that they were independent nations. Schools encourage students to craft their own faroles with patriotic symbols and other things. On the evening of the 14th the children and their parents gather to parade with their faroles through their towns.

On the 15th, there are large parades filled with people wearing traditional Costa Rican attire. There is music and a lot of dancing. And what celebration would be complete without delicious traditional food? Costa Ricans enjoy Independence Day with casados, empanadas, and tamales, among other things. Sounds like a lot of deliciousness to me!

Brazil – September 7, 1822. Independence from Portugal

Unlike many other Latin American countries, Brazil won its independence through diplomacy, after three years of war with Portugal. After a political revolution erupted in Portugal in 1820, the royal family was forced to return to Portugal, but Prince Pedro, who was the heir to the throne in Portugal, decided to stay in Brazil. Pedro’s wife Maria, sent her husband a letter encouraging him to declare Brazil’s independence. He received the letter on September 7, 1822.

Brazil celebrates Independence Day with large scale military parades and patriotic performances throughout the day. The largest of these parades is held at the Ministries Esplanade, in Brasilia, with the president of Brazil present and leading the military parade. Throughout Brazil there are local parades with student bands, and various entertainment acts. The various schools compete to see who has the best presentation.

Belize – September 21, 1981. Independence from the United Kingdom

The most recent and the most contentious country on this list is definitely Belize. Unlike its neighboring countries, Belize was never truly settled by the Spanish. Spain explored, and declared it a part of the Spanish Empire, but failed to settle it due to the hostile tribes and lack of resources. Due to the lack of Spanish presence, English settlers began to populate the area, and around 1716, nearly 200 years after the initial Spanish arrival, the first permanent British settlement was established. In September 1798, the Spanish and British fought for about a week during the Battle of St. George’s Caye, which essentially led to British rule of the country. Over 103 years later, Belize was granted its independence on September 21, 1981.

Belize, like Nicaragua, has multiple celebrations that span several weeks in September. The Battle of St. George’s Caye is celebrated on September 10th and is generally seen as the beginning of the festivities. The radio stations play patriotic music and people wear the country’s colors. People gather to have picnics and celebrate with music and dance. On September 21st there are parades with floats, bands, music, and dancing. One of the magnificent parts of the festivities is carnival. Similar to Carnival that is held in Brazil, Trinidad, and many other countries, there are hundreds of performers in beautiful and elaborate costumes. The performers are all vying for the title of King and Queen. What better way to celebrate than with music, costumes, and dancing?

Celebrations galore!

Nine different countries, nine different dates, with a span of over 170 years from the earliest to the most recent. Each of these beautiful countries celebrates in their own unique way, whether it’s with Gritos, faroles, empanadas, pupusas, or a gran carnival. Despite the differences, the one thing that they all have in common is the amount of pride the people have in their history and their country.

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