Monday, Sept. 11, 2017 | 2 a.m.
It’s easy to overlook what this weekend’s Mexican Independence Day actually means with more than a dozen A-list Spanish-speaking Latino music acts and even more fiestas set to hit the Las Vegas valley for the holiday.
Contrary to popular belief, Mexico did not gain its independence on Cinco de Mayo, or May 5. Instead, the country celebrates the occasion Sept. 16, honoring the day in 1810 that Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla rang the bells of his church in the small town of Dolores, Guanajuato, as a rallying cry for Mexican troops.
The Cry of Dolores, known colloquially as “El Grito,” began an 11-year war with Spain that eventually resulted in the European nation recognizing Mexico as its own country in August 1821.
“It’s a day of celebration for people in Mexico, the U.S. and Mexicans across the world,” said Peter Guzman, president of the Latin Chamber of Commerce.
In Mexico, celebrants convene annually before midnight in their communities’ main squares, where elected officials or leaders repeat Hidalgo’s “grito” (shout), for freedom. At sunrise, military and civic parades begin a day of celebration with fireworks, food and music.
The Cinco de Mayo holiday celebrates the Mexican army’s victory over Napoleon III’s French army on May 5, 1862, at the Battle of Puebla. Though that battle only temporarily held off French forces who later took over Mexico City, the win was unifying because Mexican forces were outnumbered 2-to-1 by the world’s strongest army.
Even more to celebrate
The Sept. 16 holiday falls just one day after Central American countries El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica also celebrate the anniversary of their declared independence from Spain on Sept. 15, 1821. Thousands of natives from those five countries also visit Las Vegas in commemoration of the holiday, though together they do not near the number of Mexican tourists expected, said Peter Guzman, president of the Latin Chamber of Commerce. “Las Vegas represents all Hispanics, and we’re happy to welcome them all.”
While the Cinco de Mayo celebration doesn’t extend beyond a day off from work in most cities across Mexico, it’s celebrated with fervor here in the United States by people of all nationalities.
As an entertainment destination near Mexico, Las Vegas is a top spot for both holidays. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority does not track visitation numbers specifically related to Mexican Independence Day, but last year, hotel rooms reached 98.4 percent capacity during a three-day period that included the holiday, That equates to about 146,615 of 149,000 total hotel rooms being occupied.
“It’s mind-boggling how the holiday and visitation here to Las Vegas continues to expand,” Guzman said. “But it’s as simple as we’re a friendly, safe city, and it’s a bargain to come here.”
Perhaps the biggest event of the weekend will take place at T-Mobile Arena, where renowned Mexican boxer Saúl “Canelo” Alvarez will face undefeated Gennady “GGG” Golovkin in a hyped middleweight title fight estimated to bring as many as 80,000 fans to Las Vegas and $70 million to the local economy.
This year’s Mexican Independence Day fight comes after Alvarez chose Dallas over Las Vegas, which typically hosts a major fight on the holiday weekend. Fighting on Mexico’s Independence Day from 2013 to 2015, Floyd Mayweather Jr. grossed between $13 million and $20 million against Andre Berto, Marcos Maidana and Alvarez, according to figures reported to the Nevada Athletic Commission. (Those figures do not include earnings from pay-per-view sales.)
“We’re obviously thrilled to get it back this year,” said Bob Bennett, the commission’s executive director. “Boxing belongs in the fight capital of the world on Mexican Independence Day.”
The holiday in Las Vegas
At McCarran International Airport, 10 direct flights were added for the holiday last year from major airports in Mexico City, Guadalajara and Monterrey, for a total of 41 commercial flights from the U.S. neighbors to the south. Mexican air carriers Aeromexico, Interjet, Magnicharters and Volaris brought more than 5,200 passengers to McCarran over the course of that weekend, and similar numbers are expected this year. “Mexican Independence weekend has developed into one more attraction that persuades people to find themselves in Las Vegas,” McCarran spokesman Chris Jones said. “It’s become a nice draw for the community, and it’s always great to see extra flights added for this or any other special event.”