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Mexican Independence Day: Across Latin America, bicentennial parties abound

Mexican Independence Day marks the 200th anniversary of freedom from Spanish rule. This year, five Latin American countries mark their bicentennials by taking stock of progress and challenges ahead.

By Staff Writer / September 15, 2010

A woman sits next to Mexican flags of different eras at the Obispado viewpoint Sept. 15, as the northern industrial city of Monterrey prepares for the Independence celebrations in Mexico.

Carlos Jasso/AP

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Mexico City

Latin America is showcasing the remains of revolutionary war heroes. It is lighting up central plazas with displays that could illuminate entire villages. Conferences, dance, poetry? Take your pick, almost any day of this year.

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Patriotism is in no short supply in 2010, the year of the bicentennial of Latin America, with five countries commemorating 200 years of independence from the Spanish crown. In many ways, it is an excuse for Latin America to party, with governments pouring money and political capital into mega-events that have been broadcast widely. But it is more than just a spectacle, with Latin America taking stock of where it stands today and where it wants to go in the future.

And by most accounts, despite deep troubles in several countries, the region is optimistic about its path, confident in its relationship with world powers, and intent on forging regional unity.

IN PICTURES: Mexico prepares for bicentennial celebrations

Mexican Independence Day is celebrated today and tomorrow. Chile celebrates Saturday. Venezuela, Colombia, and Argentina celebrated their bicentennials earlier this year. The anniversaries come on the heels of celebrations in Bolivia and Ecuador last year. Next year, Paraguay will celebrate its bicentennial and another slew of celebrations will kick off in 2021.

During centennial celebrations, each country was looking inward, says Margarita Gutman, director of the Building Latin American Bicentennials Program, a project analyzing the meaning of bicentennials in Latin America, at the New School's Observatory on Latin America in New York.

“They were celebrating the construction of the modern state,” she says.

Today, says Ms. Gutman, “The idea of having a regional presence now is much more active.… The issue of trying to recover the old links of the region is present in different ways.”

An occasion to mark regional progress

Latin America has much to celebrate. Many countries have transformed from weak states to stable democracies this century. They are more inclusive of indigenous groups and the poor in general. In countries across the region, elections in the past decade have ousted the long-ruling elite in favor of leaders promising a redistribution of wealth and power.

Resentment toward the US footprint in the region has given way to a more favorable view of America, in the wake of globalization and diversification that has brought China, India, and other world players to the scene.

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