The Paseo de Montejo is alive with lights celebrating Mexican independence. File photo

First, El Grito was canceled. And now Merida’s austerity measures have eliminated patriotic ornaments that normally line city streets each September.

Instead, red, green and white lights will bathe the Monumento a la Patria and the overpass further up the prolongación, according to the Public Services department.

The coronavirus pandemic has forced both state and city officials to redirect a diminishing pool of funds. Federal aid has been slashed and tax receipts went into freefall when the economy was shut down.

Maintaining and installing decorative lights is expensive, so the permanent LED technology that was installed at the iconic monument a few years ago will pay off now, said the director of Municipal Public Services, José Collado Soberanis. Electronic controls allow for dramatic mood changes at the monument, allowing for all the colors of the rainbow, depending on the occasion.

In 2019, to “dress” Merida for the national holidays, the Municipal Public Services Directorate installed 445 decorations along city streets, traffic circles and parks. Nearly half of those ornaments were new.

Videomapping projections designed especially for these celebrations were also displayed, but are prohibited in 2020 under coronavirus contingencies.

Related: Read about Yucatan Independence Day celebrations in 2019.

A little background on how Mexico’s Independence Day would normally be celebrated in Merida: The holiday Sept. 16, but the occasion is normally welcomed the night before on the Plaza Grande, with music and fireworks and El Grito. Partly solemn, partly joyous, el grito (or the scream or cry) it’s a distinctly Mexican display of patriotism.

Starting around 9 p.m. each Sept. 15, citizens would pack the street beneath the governor’s palace balcony and the adjacent Plaza Grande. The atmosphere, with live music, is almost like New Year’s Eve on Times Square.

Speakers on the balcony invoke the memory of the country’s historic leaders and heroes. By around 11 p.m., the crowd yells VIVA! in response to each line recited by by the governor:

¡Mexicanos! ¡Vivan los héroes que nos dieron patria!
¡Víva Hidalgo!
¡Viva Morelos!
¡Viva Josefa Ortiz de Domínguez!
¡Viva Allende!
¡Vivan Aldama y Matamoros!
¡Viva la independencia nacional!
¡Viva México!
¡Viva México!
¡Viva México!

On Sept. 16, 1810, Father Miguel Hidalgo cried out to his parish in the small town of Dolores for Mexicans to rise up to fight colonial rule and setting off Mexico’s war of independence.

That was the Grito de Dolores, which is connected to the contemporary ritual, celebrated in Yucatán and throughout Mexico.

On the 16th, cities and towns celebrate with parades and dances and an abundance of fireworks.

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