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Mexico City's bells ring for Independence Day, in a massive celebration

A man wearing a Lucha Libre wrestler's mask kisses a woman during the Independence Day celebrations at Mexico City's main square, the Zócalo.

Bells rang through Mexico City Thursday night, recreating the 1810 call to arms famously known as El Grito — the cry to overthrow Spanish rule and fight for independence.

"Viva México!" President Andrés Manuel López Obrador shouted repeatedly — calls that were loudly echoed by the massive crowd that packed Mexico City's Zócalo, the capital's main square. He celebrated Mexico's identity, its culture, its indigenous people; he also acknowledged the challenges the country faces.

"Death to corruption, death to classism, death to racism!" López Obrador said in Spanish. Responding to each phrase, the crowd shouted, "Muera!" (Die!)

Estimates of the huge crowd's size varied. At one point, Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum said she was told 130,000 people were in the square; as the night crept into the early hours of Friday, she reported an even bigger number: 140,000.

It was Mexico's first full-fledged Independence Day celebration since the COVID-19 pandemic dampened 2020's event, and people responded with glee, wearing green, white and red paint and bushy fake mustaches.

The crowd braved periodic rainfall, rewarded with a concert by norteño legends Los Tigres del Norte.

The government issued a video of the celebration, showing a military honor guard presenting Mexico's tricolor flag to López Obrador, followed by his invocation to the crowd, the national anthem and a large fireworks show.

As is traditional, when the president finished his brief speech he repeatedly yanked on a long sash to ring a bell perched high in the palace's wall — the same church bell the priest Miguel Hidalgo rang 212 years ago in the town of Dolores, signaling the start of the war against Spain and the fight for Mexico's future.

The festivities extended beyond Mexico City and Mexico's borders. A special light show marked the day in Dallas, for instance.

Mexican expats and others abroad traded tips on where to find traditional dishes like pozole and chiles en nogada -- which Mexico's embassy to the U.S. describes as "a poblano chile prepared with ingredients that symbolize the Mexican flag," including parsley, a walnut cream sauce and pomegranate seeds.

The formal date of Mexico's Independence Day is Sept. 16. But the commemorations begin the night before, to mark the early-morning call to arms that rang out from Dolores.

López Obrador's guests for the celebration presented an interesting tableau. Watching from the National Palace's balcony were Bolivia's former President Evo Morales, Uruguay's former President José Mujica, and Aleida Guevara, the daughter of Ernesto "Che" Guevara. They stood alongside John and Gabriel Shipton, the father and brother of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

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