Mexican Independence. The Mexican War of Independence erupted at a time when only Spaniards born in Spain were allowed to hold important positions.
The Mexican war of Independence began in 1810, when the nontraditional Father Miguel Hidalgo (1753-1811), a Creole priest known for gambling, having children out of wedlock, and tirelessly working with indigenous and mestizo communities to achieve economic sustainability, called for revolution in the town of Dolores on September 16th. The war ended in 1821, after more than 10 years of fighting for independence from Spain, and for equal rights for Mexicans. Today, Hidalgo’s call for revolution, known as el grito de Dolores (the shout of Dolores) is still reenacted across Mexico on Independence Day, a holiday celebrated every year on September 16th in honor of Hidalgo and his famous speech.
The Mexican war erupted at a time when only Spaniards born in Spain were allowed to hold important posts. These Spaniards enjoyed the special status their political power secured within the strict hierarchy of power based on nationality and race. Spaniards born in Mexico, called Creoles, came second on this social pyramid while mestizos, indigenous and black Mexicans were at the bottom.
A highly educated Father Hidalgo, influenced in part by the banned-in-Mexico contemporary works of the European Enlightenment, worked with poor, indigenous communities to grow their own crops and produce their own industry in an effort to break free from the unfair hierarchy of power and Spanish rule. Spanish rule did not allow the activity.
The priest’s call for Mexican independence inspired an army of men to join him to march out of Dolores and make their way through the province of Guanajuato, beginning what seems to have been a grass roots attempt to take Mexico town by town. With no military training or equipment, Hidalgo and his army captured some towns, but a growing army and a lack of organization caused the movement to quickly spin out of control. The army started looting the towns they captured, thousands started joining the cause, and their violence became uncontrollable. Only about a month after his call for revolution, in the wake of the swelling movement, Father Hidalgo became known as Generalissimo. The priest-turned-general started sporting an elaborate general’s uniform complete with gold embellishments and a large image of the Virgin of Guadalupe on the chest.
In January, Hidalgo and the rebel army suffered a defeat near Guadalajara. They headed north toward the United States but were ambushed on the way. Hidalgo was captured and executed. Another priest named Jose Morelos continued revolutionary efforts until his execution in 1815.
After that time, the Mexican war of independence was reduced to isolated guerilla activity until 1820, when Spain witnessed a revolution of its own. Liberal revolutionaries seized power in Spain and reinstated the Spanish Constitution. The event prompted Mexican army general Augustin de Iturbide (1783-1824), famous for his anti-liberal political views and determined and effective fight to end the Mexican revolutionary movement and execute its members, to suddenly join forces with the rebels and work together on a plan for a new independent Mexico. After they agreed on some specific terms for independence, the joint forces entered Mexico City, where Iturbide named himself president and where Iturbide’s most loyal supporters made up a new government.
After over a decade of fighting, Mexico had finally won its independence, although on very different terms than those envisioned by many of those who had fought so hard and even lost their lives for it. Although former royalist Iturbide’s government promised equal rights for creoles and Spaniards born in Spain, it did not promise equal rights for all Mexicans. Miguel Hidalgo has since become an important icon in the history of Mexico and a source of inspiration for people fighting for justice.