The Struggle of Mexican Independence and the Cry of Dolores

The Rebellious Journey to Mexican Independence:

The path to Mexican independence was a rebellious journey marked by a series of revolts, insurrections, and foreign interventions. From the Hidalgo revolt in 1810 to the decisive formation of the First Mexican Empire in 1821, Mexico's mission for independence from Spanish colonial rule was a multifaceted and lengthy struggle. This article explores the significant events and individuals who played crucial roles in shaping this pivotal era of Mexican history.

Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, born in 1753, served as a Roman Catholic priest in Mexico and is recognized as the "father of Mexican independence." He came from humble beginnings, attending a Jesuit school and eventually becoming ordained as a priest in 1778. Initially, he led a rather uneventful life.

The Struggle of Mexican Independence and the Cry of Dolores
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đź’»Table of Contents:

  1. The Cry of Dolores: Hidalgo's Call to Arms
  2. The Treaty of CĂłrdoba: Mexico's Official Recognition of Independence
  3. The Downfall of the First Mexican Empire
  4. Spanish Attempts to Reconquering Mexico
  5. Resistance and French Troops Withdrawal

Influenced by Enlightenment ideas, Hidalgo faced trouble in 1792, which led to his removal from his position. He went on to serve in a church in Colima and later in Dolores. When he arrived in Dolores, he was amazed by the fertile soil there. He tried to assist the underprivileged by teaching them how to cultivate olives and grapes. However, in New Spain (modern-day Mexico), growing these crops was discouraged or even prohibited by colonial authorities to avoid competition with imports from Spain.

On September 16, 1810, Hidalgo delivered the Cry of Dolores, a passionate speech urging the people to defend the interests of their captive King Ferdinand VII, who was held during the Peninsular War. He called for a revolt against the European-born Spaniards who had overthrown the Spanish Viceroy José de Iturrigaray.

Hidalgo led a march across Mexico, gathering an army of around 90,000 impoverished farmers and Mexican civilians. They confronted Spanish Peninsular and Criollo elites, but Hidalgo's troops were ill-equipped and lacked proper training. In the Battle of CalderĂłn Bridge, they faced well-trained and armed Spanish forces and suffered defeat.

The Struggle of Mexican Independence and the Cry of Dolores
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The Cry of Dolores: Hidalgo's Call to Arms

On March 21, 1811, Hidalgo's forces suffered a significant defeat in the Battle of CalderĂłn. Following this defeat, Hidalgo was captured by Spanish royalist forces. He was subsequently subjected to a trial and found guilty of treason.

On July 30, 1811, Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla was executed by a firing squad in the city of Chihuahua, marking the end of his direct involvement in the struggle for Mexican independence. His execution was a significant blow to the independence movement.

While Hidalgo did not live to see the ultimate success of the Mexican War of Independence, his actions and leadership played a foundational role in inspiring and mobilizing the Mexican people in their quest for freedom from Spanish colonial rule. Today, he is celebrated as a national hero and a symbol of Mexican independence.

After Hidalgo's capture, leadership of the independence movement fell to José María Morelos (1765-1815), another priest. Morelos was a skilled military strategist and a faithful activist for Mexican independence. Under his command, the rebellion shifted to the south, where it gained momentum.

Morelos came from a diverse ethnic background in a society that rigidly categorized people based on their ethnic origins. When he was 25, he began his studies to become a priest at the Colegio de San Nicolás in Valladolid.

After becoming a priest, he worked in various small churches, primarily serving indigenous and mixed-race communities. In 1811, he joined the rebellion led by Miguel Hidalgo, and after Hidalgo's death in July, Morelos took command of the movement in southern Mexico.

Morelos and his forces successfully captured key southern cities and regions, and in 1813, the "Sentiments of the Nation" was drafted, a document that called for the establishment of an independent Mexican nation. This historic document not only abolished slavery and racial distinctions.

The Struggle of Mexican Independence and the Cry of Dolores
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Between 1812 and 1815, Morelos controlled a significant part of southwestern Mexico, including places like Acapulco, Oaxaca, Tehuacán, and Cuautla (Santiago Cuautla). However, he didn't have enough manpower to keep control over all of these areas, so he started using guerrilla tactics, which are hit-and-run strategies.

Eventually, the royalist forces caught up with the rebels. Although Morelos fought valiantly to protect the congress, he was captured. Morelos was sentenced to death and executed by a firing squad on December 22, 1815, in San CristĂłbal Ecatepec, located north of Mexico City.

The Treaty of CĂłrdoba: Mexico's Official Recognition of Independence

Vicente Guerrero was a prominent figure in Mexico's struggle for independence from Spanish colonial rule. Born on August 10, 1782, in Tixtla, Guerrero came from humble origins as the son of an Afro-Mexican father and an indigenous mother. Despite facing racial and social discrimination, he joined the independence movement led by Morelos in the early 19th century.

Following Morelos's execution by a Spanish firing squad in 1815, Guerrero assumed command of the insurgent army. With each victory, Guerrero's influence grew. In an attempt to thwart his rising power, the Spaniards took a different approach in 1819.

They persuaded Guerrero's father to implore his son to surrender his sword to the viceroy of New Spain. However, Guerrero responded with defiance.

His leadership was marked by a commitment to abolishing slavery and promoting racial equality, which earned him respect and support from diverse groups within Mexico. Guerrero's forces engaged in guerrilla warfare, making it difficult for the Spanish to maintain control over large parts of Mexico.

In 1820, a major development occurred in Spain that would have far-reaching consequences for Mexico's independence struggle. Spain had been engulfed in political turmoil, with liberal forces pushing for a more democratic government. This instability in Spain opened a window of opportunity for Mexican insurgents.

The Struggle of Mexican Independence and the Cry of Dolores
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AgustĂ­n de Iturbide, a former Spanish loyalist, switched allegiances and joined forces with Guerrero. Together, they devised the Plan of Iguala in 1821, which proposed a united and independent Mexico, free from Spanish rule. This plan gained support from various factions, including conservative Creole elites who saw it as a way to protect their interests.

On August 24, 1821, representatives of the Spanish crown, including the newly appointed viceroy Juan O'DonojĂş and Iturbide, came together to sign the Treaty of CĂłrdoba. This treaty officially acknowledged Mexican independence as outlined in the Plan of Iguala.

The Downfall of the First Mexican Empire: 

The Plan of Iguala paved the way for the creation of the First Mexican Empire, with AgustĂ­n de Iturbide as its emperor and Guerrero as a prominent military leader. However, the empire was short-lived, facing internal and external challenges. In 1822, Iturbide's rule became increasingly authoritarian, causing discontent among various groups. This led to a power struggle, and by 1823, Iturbide was forced into exile, and the First Mexican Empire collapsed.

After Iturbide's fall, Mexico experienced political instability. Different factions and leaders vied for power, and Guerrero was involved in various conflicts. Presidential Election of 1828: In 1828, Mexico held its first presidential election, and Vicente Guerrero was one of the candidates. However, the election results were disputed, and Manuel Gomez Pedraza was declared the winner.

Guerrero and his supporters were unhappy with the election results, and he led a revolt against the government in December 1828. This revolt marked the beginning of a series of conflicts known as the "Guerrero Campaign." As a result of the revolt and ensuing political changes, Guerrero assumed the presidency on April 1, 1829. His presidency was characterized by efforts to promote social justice and equality.

The Struggle of Mexican Independence and the Cry of Dolores
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Spanish Attempts to Reconquering Mexico:

With the collapse of the empire, in 1829, Spain again made an attempt to re-invade Mexico, which resulted in the Battle of Tampico. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, who had retired to Veracruz following Iturbide's resignation, emerged victorious against the Spanish forces and earned recognition as a war hero. It was only in 1836 that Spain officially recognized Mexico's lasting independence through the Santa Maria-Calatrava Treaty.

In 1862, French forces, under Emperor Napoleon III, invaded Mexico, with the aim of establishing a puppet empire. Maximilian I of Mexico, an Austrian archduke, was installed as the emperor. The War of the French Intervention refers to the invasion of Mexico in late 1861 by the Second French Empire. Initially, this invasion had the support of the United Kingdom and Spain.

This Second Mexican Empire faced opposition from both Mexican republicans and the United States, which viewed French intervention as a violation of the Monroe Doctrine. Despite Maximilian's efforts to enact progressive reforms, his rule was marred by instability and resistance. Mexican republicans, led by figures like Benito Juárez, continued to fight for the restoration of the Mexican Republic.

Resistance and French Troops Withdrawal:

The resistance against the French-backed Empire intensified over the years. The republican forces, led by Juárez, were committed to the idea of a democratic and independent Mexico. Maximilian struggled to gain widespread support, and his rule became increasingly indefensible.

On January 31, 1866, Napoleon III issued the command for French troops to gradually withdraw. This withdrawal plan was to take place in three phases, spanning from November 1866 to November 1867.

By 1867, the French had withdrawn much of their support for Maximilian's empire due to their own political troubles in Europe. The Republican forces, with the support of the United States, laid block to the imperial capital, Mexico City. Maximilian was captured, tried, and executed on June 19, 1867, marking the end of the Second Mexican Empire.

The republicans, under President Benito Juárez, were able to consolidate their power and establish a stable government. Mexico had finally achieved its long-sought goal of independence from foreign domination.

The Struggle of Mexican Independence and the Cry of Dolores
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The path to Mexican independence was fraught with challenges, from the initial uprising led by Hidalgo to the establishment of the First Mexican Empire, its collapse, and the subsequent French intervention. However, through decades of perseverance and resistance, Mexico ultimately emerged as a sovereign nation. The struggles and sacrifices of leaders like Hidalgo, Morelos, Guerrero, and Juárez, as well as the resilience of the Mexican people, played pivotal roles in shaping the course of Mexican history.