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Drug wars on hold as party spirit takes over Mexico

Mexico looked beyond its drug war to throw a 200th birthday bash celebrating a proud history, whimsical culture and resilience, embodied in the traditional independence cry: "Viva Mexico!"

Across the capital, hundreds of thousands of people flooded the streets despite their fears, blowing horns and dancing alongside a parade of serpent floats, marching cacti and 13ft-tall warrior marionettes, and staying late into the night at open-air concerts.

President Felipe Calderon capped off the evening by ringing the original independence bell from a balcony in the Zocalo Square and delivering "El Grito" – patterned on founding father Miguel Hidalgo's 1810 call to arms against Spain: "Long live independence. Long live the bicentennial... Long live Mexico!"

Thousands of revellers echoed his cry as fireworks exploded in the square and at the iconic Angel of Independence about two miles down the city's crowded main promenade. With cities where drug violence is heaviest holding more subdued celebrations, people flocked from across the country to the capital's $40m (£26m) celebrations, which have been two years in the making.