Viva Mexico! Mexican Independence Day commemorates the day, on 16th September 1810 in the small town of Dolores, in the province of Guanajuato in Mexico, when a handful of people were summoned by a parish priest to take up arms against the Spanish colonial government – the Viceroyalty of New Spain. Thus began the fight for independence that ended 350 years of Spanish rule.
In 1519, the native civilizations of the area now known as Mexico were invaded by Spain and two years later, in 1521, the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan was conquered by an alliance of Spanish and Tlaxcaltec forces (the Tlaxcaltec being the main enemies of the Aztecs), thus beginning a three century period of Spanish colonial rule in Mexico.
The Viceroyalty of New Spain (as they named it) became the first and largest provider of resources for the Spanish Empire, and New Spain was always the most highly populated of all the Spanish colonies.
Miguel Gregorio Antonio Ignacio Hidalgo y Costilla Gallaga Mondarte Villaseñor (1753-1811) was also known as Cura Hidalgo (Priest Hidalgo) and was the instigator and, briefly, chief leader of Mexico’s war of independence against Spain. Miguel Hidalgo, was a criollo (Mexican of solely Spanish ancestry born in the New World), and the parish priest of Dolores, now called Dolores Hidalgo, a small town in the modern-day central Mexican state of Guanajuato.
On 16th September 1810 after delivering his message in the church, Hidalgo used banners which had been pre-prepared with such slogans as: “Long live religion!,” “Long live Our Holy Mother of Guadalupe!,” “Long live Fernando the Seventh!,” “Long live the Americas and death to the corrupt government!”
After ringing the town’s church bells, Hidalgo led the townspeople with shouts to join his battle against the Spaniards, with a war cry of: “Long live the Virgin of Guadalupe and death to the Spaniards!”
In less than a year, Hidalgo had recruited two hundred thousand men, mainly indigenous peoples, and created a makeshift army, although Hidalgo knew it was lacking in composure and discipline. They marched towards Mexico City to fight the Spanish Army which, according to some historians, may not have been in the capital (leaving it entirely defenceless) because they had left it to fight him elsewhere.
Hidalgo was captured in battle along with other leaders of the revolution, among them Ignacio Allende, José Mariano Jiménez and Juan Aldama. The four leaders were held in the Federal Palace of Chihuahua, tried for treason and executed, three of them on 26th June 1811 and Miguel Hidalgo on 30th July 1811 at Chihuahua’s Government Palace. The four leaders were all decapitated and their heads were put on the four corners of the Alhóndiga de Granaditas (the Grain Storage building) in Guanajuato, with the intention of dissuading rebellious thoughts. The head of Hidalgo and the three other leaders were on display in the city until 1821, when Mexico finally won its independence. They are now buried at the Rotunda of Illustrious Men in Mexico City.
After the efforts of Hidalgo, the War of Independence continued for another decade, varying in intensity, but with the Mexicans gradually gaining the upper hand. Long before the final acceptance by the Spanish that they had lost the fight to retain control of Mexico and their other central American colonies, it was clear they had lost de facto control.
Agreement with Spain regarding independence came with the Treaty of Córdoba, which was signed on 24th August 1821 in Córdoba, Veracruz, by the Spanish Viceroy Juan de O’Donojú and Agustín de Iturbide who both ratified the Plan de Iguala. On 27th September 1821 (when copies of the Treaty documents had been returned to Madrid) Spain formally recognised Mexico’s independence.
Hidalgo is remembered today by Mexicans as the Father of the Mexican Nation and Liberator of Mexico. The state of Hidalgo in Mexico is named after him and the town where it all started was re-named Dolores Hidalgo. Along with the previous day, 16th September is a public holiday in Mexico.
The day is celebrated by people of Mexican origin throughout the world. In the United States at locations in East Los Angeles and more widely in places such as Austin and El Paso, 16th September is a day when Mexican Americans often hang Mexican flags outside or at the windows their homes and parades, fairs and festivities include traditional Mexican food, beverages and music.