>> Wednesday, September 10, 2008
From the September edition of The Akumalian:
The stage for the upheaval and dissatisfaction that gave rise to Mexican independence was set by political and economic changes in Europe and its American colonies of the late 18th and 19th centuries. The French revolution and Napoleonic wars diverted attention of Spain from its colonies leaving a vacuum and increasing dissatisfaction and desire for local government. The forced removal of Ferdinand VII from the Spanish thrown and his replacement by Joseph Bonaparte, Napoleon's brother, presented opportunity for Mexican intelligentsia to promote independence in the name of the legitimate Spanish king.
From its inception the colonial government of New Spain was dominated by Spanish born Peninsulares or Guachapins, who held most leadership positions in the church and government, in contrast to Mexican-born Criollos (Creoles) who were the ten to one majority. Neither the Peninsulares nor upper class Criollos desired to involve the masses of native Indians and mestizos in government or moves for local control. . . .
In September 1810, Father Hidalgo was forced to prematurely distribute the Grito de Delores to his parishoners and nearby residents which was an appeal for social and economic reform. With little organization and no training, essentially a mob of thousands of primarily Indians and mestizos overwhelmed royal forces in Guanajuato, and proceeded to murder and loot Peninsulares, Criollos and other "whites" in their path. The force continued to Mexico City and defeated royalist on the outskirts, but did not enter and occupy the city, after which the ragged revolutionary army returned home. . . .
Hidalgo and his Creole officers were later able to assemble an army of 80,000 by payment with looted Peninsulare gold and assets. Viceroy Francisco Javier Venegas, and his soon to be successor, Gen. Felix Maria Calleja del Rey, responded to the insurgency with a vengeance, and in January 1811 Hidalgo suffered a serious defeat outside Guadalajara where rebel forces were routed at Calderon Bridge. Bloody retaliation followed by mass executions of suspected rebel sympathizers by Spanish crown forces under Viceroy Calleja del Rey. Hidalgo and associates turned toward the northern provinces Nuevo Santander, Nuevo León, Coahuila and Texas for refuge, where local sympathy for the rebellion and independence continued. . . .
At the core of Mexican patriotism is Hidalgo's Grito de Dolores. Every year, on the night of September 15-16, the President of the Republic "reenacts" the Grito on a balcony of the National Palace as the climax of the Independence Day celebrations. To do this with historical accuracy is well-nigh impossible, for no one knows precisely what Hidalgo said. The three principal contemporary reports fail to agree. Sotelo's account, the most confused and least authoritative, stated that the Grito was a short speech, made from the window of the priest's house, to the first group of followers who assembled before dawn.