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LATIN AMERICA

Half of Mexicans don’t know nation won its independence from Spain

Only 32% of citizens responded correctly to the question in a national survey

Some 13% said that they thought the country was once an American colony

Independencia de México
Mexico celebrated its independence from Spain on Tuesday, September 15. EFE

On September 15 in Mexico, everywhere you look is draped with the green, white and red of the national flag. It’s a night when even the least-patriotic Mexican celebrates with his fellow countrymen, and when the president lets out a triumphant cry from the balcony of the National Palace: “Long live independence!”

But independence from whom? Most Mexicans – 51% – have no idea that the country won its independence from Spain, while 13% believe it was an American colony.

The survey also asked participants whether Mexico would be better off if it still depended on Spain

After the patriotic festival and a nationwide hangover, Parametría, a Mexican research group that analyzes public opinion, made partygoers blush when it published a national survey given to 800 Mexican adults. This year, even fewer citizens could answer the questions correctly. In 2009, when the organization first launched the poll, 46% got it right. By April 2010, the bicentennial of the nation, that number had climbed to 53%. But five years later, only 32% of those surveyed knew that Mexicans fought to bring Spanish rule to its end, and thus became a sovereign nation.

The survey also asked participants whether Mexico would be better off if it still depended on Spain. A third said it would be worse off if it were still a Spanish colony, while 25% believe it would fare better than it does today. Even though more Mexicans are still in favor of independence than against it, that number has dropped from 44% to 33% since 2009.

There is greater awareness of the history of independence in Mexico City than in the rest of the country

Although the president’s cry of triumph usually includes mentions of the most important figures in the fight for independence, only 26% of those surveyed cited Father Miguel Hidalgo, the man who organized the September 16, 1810 insurrection. Twenty-five percent could name historical figures from other periods while 12% were unable to name anyone related to the War of Independence.

According to the survey, there is greater awareness of the history of independence in Mexico City than in the rest of the country. Forty-six percent of participants in the capital answered correctly, 14 percentage points higher than the rest of the nation. Still, 37% of Mexico City-dwellers said they did not know anything about that part of history.

This year, Mexico celebrates the 205th anniversary of the War of Independence, which lasted from 1810 to 1821. The country was a Spanish colony from 1521 onward, when Hernán Cortés conquered the city of Mexico-Tenochtitlan.

English version by Dyane Jean Francois.