BECAUSE of our Thursday-morning print run and the six-hour time difference with London, my story this week on Mexico’s bicentennial bash couldn’t include many details about the night itself. It was spectacular. Find a video if you can, but to whet your appetite, picture 20ft-high mechanical skeletons ambling down the central avenue of Reforma; an Aztec pyramid on wheels rumbling along behind them; and a 20-minute firework bombardment that made me wonder for a moment if the organisers had accidentally set fire to the Metropolitan Cathedral.
The bash was a bonanza for street-vendors. Wheeling a trolley of bicentennial merchandise around the Zócalo, Mexico City’s central square, Israel Hernández was selling almost anything in green, white and red. Tricolour wigs, at 35 pesos ($2.74), were his top seller, followed by trumpets and false eyelashes. It would be a shame when the party was over, he said, “but then it will almost be time for Christmas”—which fortunately has more or less the same colour scheme.
The following day a military parade wound its way in the opposite direction down Reforma. The crowds for this seemed just as big, despite hangovers from the previous night. Helicopters shot overhead, dangling a rope-ladder of marines who clung on for dear life as they swung around the skyscrapers. The parade was the usual array of jeeps and tanks, plus a few bonus appearances: my favourites were the SCUBA divers, sweating away in black wetsuits in the sunshine, and a corps of soldiers carrying very well-behaved eagles. (If anyone can tell me the role of the eagle in the Mexican army I would be very interested: presumably they are just ceremonial—or have they been trained to do something else? Can they drop grenades? Report on enemy positions?)
Despite the air of gloom that hangs in Mexico at the moment, the parades seemed to be a success, especially for the military. Something always makes me feel uneasy about the sight of people cheering rows of tanks. But Mexico’s army, roped into a difficult policing operation against organised crime, could do with a morale boost at the moment. The crowds of tricolour-waving people cheering “Viva Mexico” probably helped.