In Photos: Mexico’s Independence Day Food Fest

The clock strikes midnight, and the night sky is filled with screams.

Don’t worry, you’re not in the midst of a horror film.

It’s September 16th—Día de la Independencia de México, or Mexican Independence Day.

The screaming? A tradition called The Grito—a massive, unified call to arms yelled at midnight celebrating Mexico’s independence from Spain back in 1810. Accompanied by fireworks and cheers, it’s a beautiful tradition to see.

I’ve lived in Mexico for nearly six years now and love Día de la Independencia de México, Mexico’s Independence Day. It’s like a street fair crossed with a carnival where families come to celebrate, eat amazing street foods, and revel in the patriotic atmosphere.


There are games and rides, free music, and little cars for the kids to scoot around in, an adorable (and hilarious) watch.

But best of all, it’s the one day where a lot of traditional Mexican foods pop up that we don’t see any other time of the year.

When I saw a sign for gorditas de nata–a small sweet bread made with clotted cream that’s like a cross between a scone and a huge pancake– I’ll confess to almost squealing in delight.

They’re a favorite and ah-mazing! The only problem is limiting myself to just one so there’s enough room for all of the other delectable street foods.


Of course, being Mexico, there are quite a few maize delights. Made with traditional white maize, which is not sweet like the sweet yellow corn you may be used to, this white maize is quite creamy with a mild taste.

It’s called elote which means corn on the cob. One of the most popular ways to enjoy elotes is as elotes locos (crazy corn), esquite (in a cup with toppings), or grilled then served with a smoky chili rub and a squeeze of fresh lime.


Grilled elotes are a savory delight that is wonderful with a sprinkle of fresh cotija cheese as well. But usually the cheese is reserved for the crazy corn served on a stick, and the esquite served in a cup.


The best way to enjoy this traditional maize is elotes locos, crazy corn. A corn cob covered in mayonnaise, cheese, hot sauce, mustard, more cheese and whatever else you fancy. They’re tasty and fun, but don’t forget a napkin because I always end up with it all over my face.

The third way is esquite. Esquites are corn kernels served in a cup with basically all the same toppings. It’s just easier to eat and you probably won’t make as big a mess!

Elotes Esquite

These are great foods for walking around but you can sit down to eat. Temporary restaurants pop up serving more substantial meals like alambre, which is your meat of choice topped with bacon, onion, peppers, cheese, and salsa served with maize tortillas.


You’ll also find every type of taco under the sun, as well as nachos, burritos, and traditional dishes like huarache which is a thick oblong masa dough (maize flour) stuffed with mashed pinto beans, then topped with potato, onions, salsas and your meat of choice. The most popular choices are the traditional options of ground beef or tongue.

Usually, a drink is included with your meal, or you can grab one while walking around. There are always giant barrels of delicious fresh juices, aguas frescas (fruit infused water, and the ever popular horchata. Horchata is refreshing, delicious, and offers a real taste of Mexico. Made with rice, water, cinnamon, sugar and vanilla to produce a creamy tasty delight for your taste buds.

Left to right: Horchata, mango agua fresca, orange juice, pitaya (dragon fruit) agua fresca.
Left to right: Horchata, mango agua fresca, orange juice, pitaya (dragon fruit) agua fresca.

Then come the sweet treats for dessert. By far the most popular, at least where I live, are Marquesitas.

Marquesitas are a thin but sturdy crepe. More similar to a waffle cone, these large crepes are traditionally stuffed with Nutella and a sprinkle of grated Edam cheese. It’s then rolled up and served with an additional smear of Nutella and cheese. I know it sounds weird, chocolate with cheese, but trust me—it’s delicious. The combination works fantastically well and it’s the most popular for a reason.

Other sweets you’ll find strolling around are of course Churros. A thick deep-fried dough covered in sugar. Along with the churros most vendors here on Cozumel also serve other deep-fried foods like papas fritas (French fries) and deep-fried hot dog sausages.

Left to right: deep-fried - hot dog sausages, churros (front), plantain (back), and french fries.
Left to right: deep-fried - hot dog sausages, churros (front), plantain (back), and french fries.

But I usually look for one little treat most people don’t know about. A Mexican friend introduced me to fried plantains drizzled with lechera, and sweetened condensed milk. If you’ve ever had plantains, you know they’re members of the banana family but not as sweet. So, when you fry them and add a drizzle of sweetened condensed milk, they’re quite the foodie delight.

Then I usually finish where I start. Back to pick up some gorditas de nata’s to take home and pop in the freezer so I can enjoy them in the months to come!

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