“It’s an expression of our identity:” Michiganders reflect on “El Grito” in Mexican culture

Hispanic Heritage Month

LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — The Grito is a sound many Mexicans are familiar with. It’s most commonly heard in Mariachi music as an emotional expression by the singer. 

Norma Patricia Serna is a Mariachi singer in Lansing, so she is very familiar with the sound.

“It could be almost like a cry if it’s an emotional song. And then it could be happy when it’s a happy you know good going song,” Serna said. 

Grito is the Spanish word for yell, shout or cry.

However, for many Mexicans, it means much more. 

“An expression of joy, of relief, of tension release, but it’s also tinged with sadness. And tinged with some of the hardships of life. But it’s also incredibly celebratory and there’s something heartwarming when you hear it,” Rivera remarked. 

Diego Rivera is a Jazz Studies Professor at Michigan State University. He said the Grito is unique because it’s not only for musicians.

“The audience members also can participate, and I think that brings it closer together,” Rivera said.  

Serna said that’s something she’s experienced firsthand.

“For me when I’m singing and I hear someone in the crowd, you know do a Grito, it feels… it feels great. It feels like the music is really touching them,” Serna said. 

Gritos aren’t just emotional, their origins are political, dating all the way back to the 1800s in Hidalgo, Mexico. 

On September 16th, 1810, Catholic priest, Miguel Hidalgo, rang his church bell and gave the call to arms starting the Mexican War of Independence. 

Lorenzo Lopez is a historian in Lansing. He said Hidalgo’s call was the original Grito. Every year it’s re-enacted in Mexico. 

“The president comes out and announces all of the heroes of the revolution,” Lopez said. 

Lopez said there are two types of Gritos. The emotional Grito in songs, and the “El Grito” ceremony on Mexico’s Independence Day. 

“It’s an expression of our identity. It’s an expression of our unity,” Lopez said. 

The Grito is a central part of the Mexican culture, but regardless of where you’re from, the Grito is for everyone. 

“It doesn’t matter what language you speak… put on your favorite music and sing or hum and put out the Grito reduce your stress, smile and just continue on,” Lopez said. 

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