As a historian and a native of El Salvador, my participation as an American in the Mexican Independence Parade was completely remarkable. I am grateful to have been selected for the opportunity to visit Mexico, a country I have studied for years and that I can relate to.
I was able to share and expand my knowledge with my classmates who seemed appreciative and open to learning about the customs and courtesies of the Latin American culture. The Heroico Colegio Militar and its staff welcomed us and provided accommodations for us throughout our entire stay.
Upon our arrival at The Heroico Colegio Militar we all had mixed feelings. We stayed in open barracks where there was little to no privacy at all from the moment we woke up to the moment we attempted to sleep. I say attempted because we were all shocked to learn the cadets’ schedules start with the sound of a bugle at about 0515 for cleaning stations and ended with showers and more cleaning way past midnight.
We enjoyed typical Mexican meals which were the best time to get to know the people from the other delegations. We had the opportunity to bond with Peruvians, Argentinians, Colombians, Brazilians, Hondurans, Chileans, Belizeans, Venezuelans and of course Mexicans.
We compared our uniforms, our structure at our given academies and got the chance to exchange small yet meaningful trinkets. We were also able to bond during our time in Tenochtitlan where we got a tour and had a real fiesta with the other delegations, enjoying the food, music and a performance by the natives.
On Tuesday, Sep. 16, we were moved by how the entire city shut down for the parade. Hundreds of people gathered at the Plaza Mayor to celebrate their independence day. We climbed off the bus and noticed how people stared at us, curious and anxious to talk to us.
Women, children and men were all patiently waiting for the event to start. We took many pictures in our uniforms with the delegations, comparing and contrasting the cloth of our nations, each wearing it proudly.
As we stepped off, the feeling of excitement overtook as we watched the Mexican people look enthusiastic, cheerful and most surprisingly welcoming. They applauded and celebrated us, saying things like, “We are glad you are here.” We marched, proud to represent the United States in our neighboring country with whom we share so much history.
Our entire stay I felt humbled to be there and I hope that so did the rest of the group. We were honored with a commemorative coin that marked the centennial of the battle of Veracruz and a certificate to thank us for our participation in the parade.
Most importantly, we are left with the memories and new friends that we made in Mexico and the knowledge of the importance of reaching out to others.