Steamboat Springs Fabiola Katthain took out a pen and paper and wrote down the history of Mexico's independence. She knew the dates and the names. She told the history as if it were the story of her own family, passed down from generation to generation.
The story started in 1521 when a Spaniard named Hernan Cortes formed a false allegiance with the Olmec, Teotihuacan, Maya and Toltec people to conquer the powerful Aztecs.
"At the time there were 20 million Indians," Katthain said. She drew an arrow across the page. "After 10 years, there were only 1 million Indians."
The story Katthain told ended in 1810 when a Catholic priest named Father Hidalgo "rang the bell of his little church calling everyone to fight for liberty."
Almost 200 years later, Mexicans have echoed Hidalgo's call to arms with a traditional "grito," signaling the beginning of Mexican Independence Day (Sept. 16).
"The president of Mexico comes out to his balcony and shouts into the plaza," Katthain said.
The president yells, "Viva Mexico." "Viva Miguel Hidalgo."
The crowd responds, "Viva Mexico." "Viva Miguel Hidalgo."
The president shouts, "Viva Mexico. Viva Mexico. Viva Mexico."
"And everyone goes crazy shouting 'viva, viva, viva,' Katthain said.
Katthain moved to Steamboat two years ago from Mexico City with her husband and two daughters. Her husband's family owned a second home here, and the Katthains would come to Steamboat during the winter. Katthain's husband is able to keep his job with Cuadritos, a dairy company in Mexico, through the Internet.
"I think there is this image that all the Mexicans in town are housekeepers or that they are all here illegally," Katthain said. "You don't know how many Mexicans are here. I was in the grocery store the other day and heard more Spanish than English."
Summer Laws, co-organizer of the Mexican Independence Day celebration, sees this as a chance for cultural exchange.
"I talked to a Mexican man who came here from a professional background and now works as a dishwasher and prep cook," Laws said. "He said the most important thing is to just feel like a human being."
As a way of bringing a little of Mexico to Steamboat, Katthain and her family will lead residents of Steamboat Springs in a traditional grito to kick off a local Mexican Independence Day celebration on Thursday night in Centennial Hall.
After the grito kicks off the celebration, the Christian Heritage School Spanish teacher, Lupita Hathaway, will tell the history of the holiday in Spanish and English.
Mexican food will be on hand for purchase, and the mariachi band, Mariachi Jaliciensi, will provide entertainment. The band lives in Denver and was brought here by Miguel Estrella, a manager at Fiesta Jalisco. The mariachi band will wander through the streets of downtown Steamboat, making stops at various restaurants.
"That's what they would do in Mexico," Laws said.
After the party, Mariachi Jaliciensi will play from 10 p.m. to midnight at the Rio Grande Restaurant.
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