Friday, September 19, 2008

A nod to my three home countries

During my lifetime I have lived in three different countries. I was born and currently live in the United States, I was raised in Chihuahua, Mexico, and I served a two-year mission for my Church in Viña del Mar, Chile. These different places have each had an impact on my life, and I have fallen in love with each country for its own reasons. I love their heroes, their flags, their traditions, and their holidays. Patriotic holidays are my favorite ones, and during one 7-day period each year the three countries that have been my home celebrate significant national holidays. Beginning on September 13th and running through September 19th I usually go into sensory overload - and enjoy every minute of it. (It probably drives my wife nuts at times!)

September 13th - Dia de los Niños Heroes (Mexico)

On September 12-13, 1847 soldiers and marines from the United States attacked Chapultepec Castle, home to the Heroico Colegio Militar, in Mexico City. (This battle gave the Marines "The Halls of Montezuma" for their hymn) The castle was defended by the cadets of the college, with six cadets in particular showing magnificent bravery in the face of a superior fighting force. I grew up learning about these six young men (ages 13-19) and have always admired their bravery. During one Independence Day parade I was chosen to be one of the six boys who represented each of the Niños Heroes (I was Fernando Montes de Oca) and was thrilled by having that honor. An impressive monument/tomb was erected to their memory in Chapultepec park, just below the castle they died defending. In March of 1947, just a few months before the 100th anniversary of this battle, President Harry Truman laid a wreath at this monument, showing reverence for their sacrifice and helping to heal years of bitterness between the two countries. (President Truman is still Mexico's favorite U.S. President as a result)
For more information about each of the Niños Heroes click here.

September 14th - Anniversary of the Star Spangled Banner (U.S.)

On the night of September 13, 1814, a young lawyer named Francis Scott Key witnessed the nightime bombardment of Fort McHenry by the British fleet at anchor in Baltimore harbor. Throughout the bombardment, Key could see the storm flag being flown over Ft. McHenry, knowing by its presence that the fort was still holding out. When the bombardment stopped later that night however, he could no longer tell what was happening. As "dawn's early light" broke over the harbor, Mr. Key searched through the "mists of the deep" to see if the "flag was still there". His search was rewarded at the sight of an enormous flag that had been put up during the night - bearing testimony that the Americans were still there and there was still fight in them. He was so inspired by the sight of that flag that he began writing a poem on the back of an envelope he was carrying - calling it "Defence of Ft. McHenry". This poem later became known as "The Star Spangled Banner", and went on to become our national anthem. The large flag that flew over Ft. McHenry is now a revered national treasure, housed in the Smithsoniam Museum of American History.
For a better telling of this story click here.
September 15-16 - Independence Day (Mexico)
Growing up in Mexico - this was the best day of the year. We celebrated with fireworks, parades and the "Grito" during the night of September 15th. On September 15, 1810, Father Miguel Hidalgo called his parishioners to arms against the Spanish conquerors who had dominated the land since the early 1500's. Calling out for armed rebellion against the hated "Gachupines", Hidalgo and his armed band quickly ignited a fire that ended 11 years later with Mexico winning its independence from Spain.
I loved to participate in the Independence Day parade through our little town each year, and enjoyed the patriotic speeches and John Hatch's re-enactment of the "Grito" as fireworks went off behind him. Guadalupe Zelaya, one of my grade-school teachers would tell us all kinds of stories about the war for Independence and the names of Hidalgo, Allende, Morelos, and others entered into my conscience as worthy members of humanity's pantheon of heroes.
More info here.
September 17th - Constitution Day (U.S.)

On September 17, 1787, 39 of the 55 delegates to the Federal Convention in Philadelphia signed the new Constitution of the United States that they had spent the last five months creating. This day is one of the most significant days not only for our own country, but for freedom loving people the world over. This document has preserved our freedoms, made us the most prosperous and powerful nation in history, and is an absolute miracle. Constitution Day and Indepedence Day are my two favorite days of the whole year. I am so grateful to the men who argued, debated, compromised and crafted this magnificent document. I read the Constitution several times a year, and frequently discuss it with good friends who share the same love I have for it. As a nation we are blessed beyond measure by this incredible, miraculous document.
(I am not always able to celebrate each of the holidays I love this week, but I ALWAYS celebrate Constitution Day with my family)
Additional info here.

September 18-19 - Independence Day/Armed Forces Day (Chile)

On September 18, 1810 a Junta declared Chile an autonomous republic under the Spanish crown. (1810 was a real bad year for Spain). The fight for independence would last 8 years, culminating with Generals Bernardo O'Higgins and José de San Martin crossed the Andes to defeat royalist forces in.

While I lived in Chile I was told that it was the law that each home have a Chilean flag which was to be flown on the 18th of September each year. Whether or not it is actually the law - it certainly is the practice. Every home I passed on the 18th and 19th of September flew a Chilean flag. It was impressive!
Information on Chile can be found here.

When President Truman visited the monument to the Niños Heroes he said: "Brave men don't belong to any one country. I respect bravery wherever I see it." That about sums up my feelings for the celebrations this week. I am an American to the core, but I hold a great love in my heart for the other two countries that have been my home.


Melinda said...

Awesome information! Thanks for passing it on. I love how patriotic you are to all 3 of your countries.

Melissa B. said...

This is a great post! I'm an American who has visited Mexico & Chile many times, so I know you're proud! BTW, I've posted something today about the disappearance of the puzzling Blogstalker, who seems to have evaporated from Cyberspace. I notice that you're on his/her/its blogroll, so thought I'd touch base. Please drop by and weigh in on this mystery!

Salsa Mama said...

Hey honey! I tagged you on my blog.