Morelos, and Itúrbide
Mexican country notes for brief chronology)
PHASE OF MEXICAN WAR OF INDEPENDENCE
In 1810, Napoleon Bonaparte had been in control of Spain since
1808; king Carlos IV had been deposed; Napoleon's brother José Bonaparte had
been installed as the new king of Spain (José I); and Carlos IV's son, the
future Fernando VII, was a prisoner of Napoleon's in France. Since Mexico, like the rest of Spanish America, was
legally an integral part of Spain,
European ruler was, therefore, the French dictator and emperor, Napoleon. As in
most of the rest of Spanish America, Mexico's criollos (native-born Spanish Americans) rose against Napoleon in
order to hold Mexico for the ruler they considered legitimate; i.e., Fernando
VII. Not all Spaniards or Mexican criollos,
however, favored the Spanish king; many were Enlightenment intellectuals who
favored the progressive reforms instituted by Napoleon. An example is the Spanish
Viceroy in Mexico City, who managed to keep Mexico City and environs
firmly in Spanish (that is, French-controlled Spanish) hands. As a result, in
Mexico, unlike the rest of Spanish America, the independence movement started
in rural areas, notably in the small town of Dolores, about 100 miles NW of
The man who began the Mexican War of Independence was Fr.
Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla (1753-1811). He was a man of good character, the son
of a farmer, and a good student. He studied French philosophy (notably
Jean-Jacques Rousseau), and he approved of the French Revolution. However, he
was the father of two daughters who lived in his house, he opposed the Pope, he
questioned the Catholic doctrine of the virgin birth of Jesus' mother Mary. As
a result of these facts he was denounced and then jailed by the Inquisition,
but he was freed and sent back into internal exile in his home town of Dolores. There he learned
the local native languages; he organized an orchestra for the Indians; he
improved the vineyards, the cultivation of mulberry trees, and various industries
such as pottery, the tannery, bricks, etc. He also engaged in a special mission
for the poor. By 1810 he had joined the criollo
conspiracy in the city of Querétaro.
On September 16, 1810 (Mexican Independence Day) he made his famous "Grito
de Dolores" (independence proclamation of Dolores). The cry itself is this: "¡Viva Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe! ¡Muera el mal gobierno! ¡Mueran los gachupines!" (Long live
Our Lady of Guadalupe!
Down with bad government! Down with the nasty Spaniards!) Immediately, he armed
the workers and he freed prisoners from the local jail. At the Dolores church
he said: "My children, this day comes to us a new dispensation. Are you
ready to receive it? Will you be free? Will you make the effort to recover from
the hated Spaniards the lands stolen from your forefathers 300 years ago?"
led an army composed of 50,000 native soldiers. It was a very spirited army,
but it lacked discipline. This army ravaged the region from Querétaro to Guadalajara. Then it
marched toward Mexico City,
but it stopped. Because it hesitated too long it lost momentum, when it is
possible that, had it continued to the capital, it could have defeated the
Spanish army in Mexico City.
The army then deserted Hidalgo.
He was driven north to Saltillo.
On January 11, 1811, he was captured by the Spanish army, defrocked by the
Catholic Church, and executed by the Spaniards. When Mexico
became a republic in 1824, Hidalgo
was considered a kind of secular saint. The state of Hidalgo was named for him, and the name of
his town was changed to Dolores Hidalgo.
PHASE OF MEXICAN WAR OF INDEPENDENCE
The second phase of the Mexican War of
Independence was led by José María Morelos, who, like Miguel Hidalgo, was a Catholic
priest. This phase goes from the execution of Fr. Hidalgo in 1811 until
Morelos' execution by the Spanish royal army in 1815. Morelos, however, begins
his militant independence activity as one of Hidalgo's lieutenants in 1810. Morelos leads
the second, third, and fourth independence campaigns until his death. Because
of his central position in the order of events in Mexico's
fight for independence, because of his talents and his martyrdom, Morelos is
considered the major hero of Mexico's
For the giant statue of Morelos in the
central plaza in Cuernavaca, click here: Cuernavaca #10.
For a separate narrative of Morelos' life
and achievements, see the following pages: Morelos.
PHASE OF MEXICAN WAR OF INDEPENDENCE
The third phase of Mexico's War of Independence covers
the years 1825 to 1821. The principal figure in this phase is Agustín de
Iturbide (Agustín Cosme Damián de
Iturbide y Aramburu, 1783-1824). As his father was from Spain and his mother was a Mexican Spanish criolla connected to a noble family, he
was born and raised in Mexico
with royalist sympathies. Iturbide joined the Spanish royal army in 1797, and
he fought for Spain against
the insurrections of Hidalgo
and Morelos. In 1815 he led the defeat of Morelos, but in 1816 he was banished
from the Spanish army due to accusations of misuse of army funds for his own
profit. He switched sides from a supporter of Spain
to a supporter and leader of the independence movement, however, in 1820, when
liberals in Spain
under Rafael Riego forced king Fernando VII to govern under a liberal
constitution. Due to this change in European Spanish politics, the conservative
Mexican criollos, including Iturbide,
opted for independence from Spain.
In 1820, criollos seized Spanish banks and mines in Mexico. The last actual fighting
between royalist and insurrectionist forces took place in January 1821. The
following month conservative and liberal revolutionaries come to an agreement
by signing the famous Plan de Iguala (Iguala is a town south of Mexico City). The three
principal points in this "plan", also known as the Three Guarantees
(las Tres Garantías), are (1) a declaration of independence, (2) the creation
of a constitutional monarchy, and (3) the institution of the Catholic religion
as the only legal religion in Mexico.
There is no provision in the Plan for native rights. The throne is offered to
Fernando VII of Spain
or one of his brothers, but they never come to occupy it. Iturbide manages to
get most of the troops, both insurrectionist and royalist, to come together in
one unified army called the Ejército Trigarante (the tri-guarantee army). In
August, 1821, the treaty ending the war between Mexico
is signed, and the Ejército Trigarante enters the capital in triumph (=> Triumphal Entry). Iturbide
presides the formation of the new government; he is promoted to Generalísimo;
and he is awarded a fortune in money and land (in Texas) that elevates him to a power level similar
to the former viceroys. In 1822, Iturbide is proclaimed emperor with the name
of Agustín I. In December of this year the Mexican general Antonio López de
Santa Anna (the same general made famous at the battle of the Álamo in Texas in 1836) rose against
the Mexican empire and declared support for a republican government. So much
pressure builds against Agustín I (i.e., Iburbide) that he abdicates in 1823.
After living in exile in Europe, Iturbide returns to Mexico in 1824, where he is
arrested and summarily executed. Shortly after Iturbide was deposed Spain tried to recapture Mexico, but General Santa Anna defeated the
Spanish invaders on the coast at Tampico.
In 1823, Guatemala
and the rest of Central America except for Panamá separate from Mexico.