Happy 204th birthday Mexico! In celebration of the occasion, I'm introducing a new series: Anthemology. This series will focus on the roots of and relationships between national anthems the world over, letting us learn about a nation's psyche by the symbols it chooses for itself.
Today we look at Mexico's national anthem, a belligerent, patriotic march written by a love poet and a Spaniard.
After a national lyric-writing contest was announced in 1853, the romantic poet Francisco González Bocanegra was forced to enter by his then-fiancée Guadalupe del Pino. With her parents' help, she led him to a room and locked him in until he had written something worthy. Several hours later, he slipped the pages meekly under the door, met with her and her parents' approval, and was released. Several days later, his lyrics were unanimously chosen by the panel as the winning entry. Francisco and Guadalupe were married later that year.
The music contest was exciting in a different way: The first winner was quickly deemed to be, well, bad, so the government held a second contest. This time, the winning entry quickly became beloved, despite the awkward detail that the march was written by a Spaniard.
Since then, Mexicans at the Cry of War has represented the country on all stages, despite its belligerence sometimes being a subject of debate.
On a personal note, my string quartet Sin Tregua deals (with dubious legality) with the horrors of and government ineffectiveness in the ongoing drug war in Mexico. Take a listen and see if you can hear the anthem emerge.