Historic Mesilla, New Mexico will bring to life the sound, culture, and taste of Mexico with the annual Diez y Seis de Septiembre Fiesta on September 13th and 14th.
The usual tranquil setting of the town plaza comes to life with the sounds of Mexican ballads echoing through the air, as Mariachi troupes and vocalists dazzle the crowd with their musical and vocal talents. Mexico’s rich culture of dance and song is demonstrated by various groups of Ballet Folklorico and Flamenco Dancers, dressed in vibrant, colorful dresses and ranchero costumes, twirling, moving and turning to precise steps, following the beat of Mexican polkas and waltzes.
The plaza will be bustling with vendors offering traditional Mexican food, drink and dessert, such as roasted corn, corn in the cup, gorditas, enchiladas, tacos, burritos, and other entrees, “bebidas” or drinks such as aqua frescas and horchata fill patron’s glasses, children and families satisfy their “sweet tooth” with a bite out of a churro, a favorite Mexican dessert. The sounds of carnival rides at the distant are interweaved with the laughter of children playing a variety of games, such as the local favorite, the greased pole climb. Local and regional Artisans line the plaza and adjacent streets, showcasing an array of hand-made art work and crafts. It’s a great atmosphere that celebrates the essence of the Mexican/American culture in the Mesilla Valley.
The town embraces this annual Mexican holiday, decorating its plaza with red and green paper flags and piñata decorations. All the details of a traditional Mexican party are infused into this weekend celebration, which honors one of Mexico’s most historical events, its Independence Day. It has become a local favorite and draws hundreds of visitors to the fiesta each year, deep with tradition, Mesilla has celebrated Mexico’s Independence Day since the late 1800’s. This fiesta parallels other celebrations taking place throughout Mexico, so don’t miss out on the fun, there is plenty to see, do and enjoy, so bring your walking shoes and folding chairs.
Admission is free and activities begin on Saturday at 11 a.m. with a one-mile parade with floats, marching bands, spirit and color guards, traditional Mexican and American equestrian groups, antique cars and trucks, as well as vehicles from EMS, law enforcement and fire department. Something new at this year’s parade is the Shriners’ miniature cars, members from the Albuquerque, El Paso and Las Cruces Clubs will appear along the one mile parade route which begins at the Mercado area at Calle de Mercado and Avenida de Mesilla and ends at Four Points Gin at Union Avenue and Avenida de Mesilla.
The event continues at the town plaza at noon, with greetings from Mesilla Mayor Nora Barraza and Consul General Jacob Prado from the Mexican Consulate. A re-enactment of the famous “Grito” kicks-off the festivities.
Plaza shops, bars and restaurants are open for business during the festival, as well as the historic Basilica of San Albino Roman Catholic Church. Headlining this year’s fiesta is Animmo, a Las Cruces Salsa Band, they perform at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday evening. The sounds of the Sancho Katz, a Tex-Mex Band begins at 4 p.m. on Sunday.
New at this year’s fiesta is the sale of freshly roasted green chile, a portion of the proceeds benefit disabled veterans in the area.
Saturday’s activities end promptly at 10 p.m. and resume at noon the next day, with events concluding at 7 p.m. on Sunday. Alcohol and smoking is prohibited in the plaza, and pets are not allowed on the premises. Please contact the Town of Mesilla for more information at (575) 524-3262, ext. 116 or visit www.mesillanm.gov
A Little Bit of History
The Diez y Seis de Septiembre Fiesta is based on Mexico’s independence from Spain, an 11-year war liberated Mexico from its oppressors, ending their 300 year old reign in 1821. Each year, the 16th of September celebration begins with an re-enactment of the official “Grito” or rally yell, which is based on the original rally cry for independence from a Mexican priest, Father Miguel Hidalgo de Costilla, who just before midnight on September 15, 1810, rallied poor Mexican farmers and peasants to battle their Spanish tyrants in the little town of Dolores in the outskirts of Mexico City. This priest’s “Grito” along with the ringing of the town’s church bells initiated the battle against Spain, and the fight for Mexico’s independence. Today, this celebration honors the initial bravery of these Mexican patriots in pursuit of their nation’s independence.
Mesilla’s history dates back to the days of the indigenous people who called it home and the Spanish Conquistadores who explored and traveled this area in search of riches in the 1500’s, eventually claiming this land as their own. This land was occupied by various settlers, Native Indians, Spaniards, Mexicans as well as the white man from the East. It remained Spain’s territory for 300 years, from 1521 to 1821, until Mexico gained its independence from Spain.
Mexico held reign over most of the southwestern United States until 1848, when a vast amount of land was ceded to the United States after losing the Mexican-American War, (1846 thru 1848). The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (1848) gave the U.S. ownership of what is now known as Texas, California, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, and most of Arizona, Colorado, Oklahoma, Kansas and Wyoming.
The treaty, also established the international boundary and named the Rio Grande River as the border between the two nations in the state of Texas. Although this agreement was made, Mesilla, and land at the base of Arizona and the “Boothill” of New Mexico stretching east to Mesilla, and west of the Rio Grande were still being disputed by the two countries.
Eventually, Mesilla became a U.S. Territory in 1854, when the U.S. purchased the disputed land from Mexico, the Treaty of Mesilla was signed, which completed the Gadsden Purchase and ratified the original agreement in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. As a U.S. territory, the land around Mesilla flourished and became a well-established community, but growth across the Rio Grande River, east of the town, in what is known as Las Cruces, New Mexico, stunted the growth of Mesilla. The establishment of the railroad on that side of the river, spurred the population of Las Cruces and preserved the identity of the quaint little town of Mesilla, which reflects its history, culture and traditions of those early years today.