DOLORES HIDALGO, Mexico -- Perhaps hoping to avoid conflict and a political storm at the Sept. 15 independence celebrations in Mexico City's Zocalo (main square) -- the usual site of such festivities -- President Vicente Fox bolted for Dolores Hidalgo in his home state of Guanajuato to deliver the annual grito, a reenactment of parish priest Miguel Hidalgo's call for independence from Spanish rule. Stormy conditions, though, followed the president. The skies opened less than an hour before the 11 p.m. ceremony began, soaking the revelers gathered in the town center. Later, lightning crashed while Fox delivered the grito from the doorway of the Nuestra Señora de Dolores parish church, the scene of Hidalgo's original act in 1810.
After walking through a rain storm from the Casa de Hidalgo to the parish -- shaking hands and kissing babies along the way like a consummate political campaigner -- Fox lustily yelled, "Viva Mexico!" before ending with the additional shouts, "Long live our democracy," "Long live our institutions," and "Long live our unity." All three shouts referred to the contentious July 2 election and the opposition movement led by presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, whose supporters Fox was avoiding by delivering the grito in Dolores Hidalgo. (Lopez Obrador said recently, "To hell with Mexico's institutions.")
The short sojourn, a face-saving measure on Fox's part, revived the tradition of presidents visiting Dolores Hidalgo, a city of approximately 40,000 residents located 270 kilometers northwest of the capital, in the final year of their sexenios (six-year terms). Prior to this year, former president Carlos Salinas delivered Dolores Hidalgo's last presidential grito. (Former president Ernesto Zedillo failed to make the trip.) Fox probably would have also skipped visiting Dolores Hidalgo during his sexenio if not for security concerns and the potential for conflict in Mexico City -- which the Interior Ministry said was a distinct possibility, according to press reports. Up until Sept. 14, Fox insisted he would deliver the grito in the Zocalo.