Filming the raising of the flag in Mexico City

Every morning in Mexico City’s Zocalo, the country’s military raise the national flag in a ceremony enjoyed by tourists and Mexicans alike. Many of the Mexican bystanders on their way to work stop and salute as the flag goes up. Sometimes it goes up at 6, sometimes at eight, and it usually comes down around 6 at night – timing tends to depend on the season and the weather.
I wanted to make a film of the ceremony as part of the more experiential-type posts I am hoping to put up on La Plaza. That meant a 5 a.m start, as apparently they raise the flag at 6. I arrived in the Zocalo with my faithful assistant Ulises at 5:45 a.m, courtesy of a cab who drove like the Zocalo was burning down. At 5 a.m – when the streets of Mexico City are practically empty – it’s too tempting for him not to. Usually, the crawling traffic means getting from A to B takes a long time.
First off, a policeman we approached to ask when the flag went up told me that because of a protest camped in the Zocalo, they weren’t doing the ceremony at the moment.
“What a lot of crap,” I thought.
Firstly, there is always some kind of group protesting or camped in the City’s Zocalo – meaning the flag would never go up if were being postponed for that reason. And secondly, the tradition is SO famous and well-known that I couldn’t believe that it would be passed over in any situation other than a national emergency. And even THEN, I expect it would still happen – for the sake of el pueblo and la patria (the Mexican people and land).
So we hung around as the morning light seeped onto the enormous concrete square. People walked by us on their way to work as pigeons pecked at the ground, looking for crumbs from the array of street fold sold on Mexico’s City’s streets.
As it neared 6:45a.m the doors of el Palacio Nacional opened. One simple question to a helpful soldier elicited a simple answer. The flag would go up at eight.
So, in the meantime it was off to one of our favourite Mexico City cafes La Blanca for breakfast, which for me was a traditional Mexican tamale. That’s a savoury corncake, served hot, with mole and chicken hidden inside like a little gift, topped with a warm, red spicy sauce. Yummy.
We headed back to the square before eight and the solider began filing out as I was busy shooting a pigeon. Amazingly, I initially got to shoot very close to a couple of soldiers who were arranging the winch on the pole that would pull up the flag. But after getting a few takes, a young soldier stepped out of his position in the ring of men surrounding the pole to inform me I would have to get outside the circle to film – and ask for official permission to film up-close.
I knew it had all been to easy. But that getting official permission would be hard. I’d already tried negotiating a permission to get inside a women’s Army training school. No joy. Might it be easier now that I was working for a an established media provider? We’ll see, I guess.
I moved back from the flag pole, dragging my feet, and had to be content with filming from a few crazy floor angles and the saluting public.
A call to SEDENA, the Defence Secretary office, later that morning, elicited a promise that the permission would be granted in 5 – 8 days so I will hopefully be going back to have a better go.
The film so far is coming soon – it’s still in editing.