Mexican Independence Day “El Grito”
Throughout Mexico and in Mexican and Chicano communities in the United States, the 16th of September is celebrated as Mexican Independence Day. It is the day that in 1810, Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, a village priest inspired by nationalist fervor, stood on the steps of his church in the town of Dolores and called for a war of independence by the Mexican people against the arbitrary and discriminatory rule by Spain. This cry for freedom became known as “El Grito de Dolores.” Father Hidalgo and his followers went forth proclaiming the independence movement under the banner of an image of the Virgin de Guadalupe, the patron saint of the Mexican people.
Prior to this time, following the conquest and subjugation of the Indian population of Mexico by Spanish conquistadors, the intermingling of Indian and Spanish people had created a new caste of citizens known as criollos. These were people born in the new world but of Spanish and Indian ancestry. Because they had not been born in Spain, they were denied many of the rights and privilege of those Spaniards born in Europe. Over time this created an unfair and discriminatory society causing the criollos to want the freedoms enjoyed by European born Spaniards.
While the Mexican War of Independence was initiated by Father Hidalgo’s Grito, in fact he was only tapping into long term resentments and plans for an insurrection that had been building for years. Conspirators met under the guise of a literary society in the town of Queretaro. Discovery of the insurgent plot by Spanish authorities is what provoked Father Hidalgo to take action.
The war of Independence lasted more than ten years (1810-1821).
The armed independence forces battling the Spanish were led by Father José Morales and by General Vicente Guerrero and involved battles that began near Mexico City but soon spread throughout Mexico. In 1815, Morales and his forces were defeated and Morales executed. From then on the war continued as guerilla warfare under Guerrero.
In Europe Napoleon Bonaparte had ousted Spanish rule in 1808 and had place his brother Joseph to rule over Spain and its colonies as a monarch. In Mexico, Spaniards loyal to the crown did not acknowledge the authority of Joseph Bonaparte. Spain had instituted an interim rule of Mexico by Vice José de Iturrigaray but he was soon overthrown by Spaniards who rejected Bonaparte’s rule.
The impact in Mexico of the efforts by Joseph Bonaparte to retain control of Mexico and its colonies was that Spaniards born in Mexico saw their interests jeopardized and rather than concede to Bonaparte’s authority over them, decided to protect their interests by joining forces with Guerrero’s insurgents who wanted independence from Spain. Agustín de Iturbide led the forces of the Spanish elite once loyal to the Spain. He united with Guerrero’s insurgent forces and together they formed the Army of the Three Guarantees (defending religion, independence and a united Mexico). They signed the Plan de Ayala which called for a unification of all factions to fight for a Mexico independent of Spain and fighting for the Three Guarantees The new republic was to be ruled as a monarchy.
The Mexican War of Independence came to an end on September 27,1821 when the army of the Three Guarantees marched into Mexico City permanently ousting Spanish rule. Henceforth, New Spain was to be called the Mexican Empire. On May 19, 1922 Iturbide was declared Emperor of Mexico.
In the years that followed Mexico would undergo more upheavals and leadership changes as it evolved into the country we know today. Nonetheless, the 16th of September, the date that Father Hidalgo first initiated the Grito de Dolores, is recognized as the official date of Mexico’s Independence from Spain and is celebrated in Mexico by an official ceremony hosted by the President of Mexico known as “El Grito.”
Text copyrighted 2019 by Barrio Dog Productions. Historic paintings in the public domain. Parade photo copyright by Barrio Dog Productions,Inc.