Mexican President Felipe Calderon at the National Palace led the traditional "El Grito" (The Cry) ceremony commemorating the 201 years since the nation's independence movement began, at a festival with thousands of people in attendance that was repeated in public squares around the country.

Calderon, who is nearly five years into his six-year term, cried out "Viva Mexico!" from the main balcony of the palace before a crowd that, despite the rain, had gathered in the Zocalo, the principal plaza in the country.

The ceremony reenacts the wee hours of Sept. 16, 1810, when the Rev. Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla called Mexicans to take up arms against Spain to win their independence. The Mexican War of Independence went on until 1821.

Mexico's 31 governors also shout "El Grito" in the main plazas of their individual states.

The popular festival, which continued Friday with a military parade in the Zocalo, has seen a cooling of the public's enthusiasm since in 2009 a group of hired killers threw grenades at a crowd gathered in Morelia, capital of Michoacan, for independence day events.

Mexico is going through a wave of violence attributed to turf wars between drug cartels, and to the war on drugs pitting thousands of federal troops against the drug traffickers at specific points around the country.

In Guadalajara, capital of the western state of Jalisco, the "El Grito" ceremony was celebrated under a strong security guard, which made use of the 192 security cameras installed for next month's Pan American Games.