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by Kari Raggett
Don Agustín de Iturbide was an ambitious leader whose life ended abruptly when he was executed upon returning to Mexico in 1824. His background and rise to power offer insight into a man whot switched sides until he found a cause worth fighting for. Once in power, Iturbide implemented several acts that changed the face of the War for Independence. He left an enduring impact on Mexican history that continues today.
The rise to power and background of Agustín de Iturbide explains his actions while in power. He was born Don Agustín in Valliodad, Mexico in 1783 to a noble family. In order to be accepted in a racially discriminate society Iturbide claimed to be a creole, or a full-blooded Spaniard born in Mexico. His father was nobility; however, it was said that his mother was really a mestizo, and contained some Indian blood. Church and the governmental institutions educated Iturbide. By claiming to be a creole, Iturbide was commissioned to the army in his teens. At this point he was loyal to the Spanish crown. He distinguished himself by putting down uprisings of rebels who called for the independence of Mexico. For a period of time he sided with the forces of Father Miguel Hidalgo and Allende; however, when they were captured he turned his support back to the crown. By suppressing these rebellions he was named supreme commander of the armies of the north. Then Spain turned liberal and decided to accept the democratic constitution, which made the conservative creoles angry, including Iturbide.
The rich remained in power and the rebellion came alive again under the leadership of Vicente Guerrero. Iturbide, now a brigadier general, was sent on an expedition to suppress the rebels under Guerrero. By now he had become increasingly sympathetic to the cause of independence for Mexico and entered into negotiations with Guerrero. Iturbide offered Guerrero the idea of the "Three Guarantees"' and if Guerrero accepted them, Iturbide would then give his support to Guerrero's forces. They jointly formed the Army of "Three Guarantees,", and thus began the end of the War for Independence. Iturbide manipulated and deceived groups, the loyal Spaniards and the rebels, in order to plant himself in a position to use his military power as a political weapon.
With the offer of the three guarantees, Iturbide found himself with the ability to control the masses with his new military consisting of those loyal to him as well as those loyal to Guerrero's cause. The three guarantees turned into the Plan of Iguala. It suggested three guarantees: independence, union, and religion. Independence entailed that Mexico would have to be declared a sovereign state. Union comprised the fact that there would no longer be a distinction between Americans and Europeans. Religion stated that Catholicism would be named the official religion. Another achievement was the Treaty of Córdoba. This treaty was an agreement on the independent kingdom of Mexico. The Treaty was between Don Juan O'Donoju, Lieutenant-General of the Armies of Spain, and Don Agustín de Iturbide, First Chief of the Imperial Mexican Army of the "Three Guarantees." It provided the guidelines for choosing the emperor of the newly created sovereign state of Mexico. Ferdinand VII, King of Spain, had first bid to the throne. If he chose not to accept, it also laid out the actions to be taken from then on. Since Ferdinand VII rejected the offer and forbade any of his family from accepting the position, Iturbide had himself called to the throne. Iturbide had the support of the highest commanders in the army and the many Mexico City people. He became Emperor Agustín I of Mexico on July 22, 1822. His reign of power was short-lived because the political and financial instability continued to plague the newly independent Mexico. Iturbide offered to abdicate to alleviate some of the problems. His abdication was an attempt to help Mexico. In March of 1823, his offer for abdication was accepted.
After his departure the situation in Mexico continued to worsen and Iturbide then realized that his sacrifice was for nothing. Iturbide continued to receive reports from Mexico from some advisors that if he returned he would be hailed as a liberator and a potential leader against the Spanish invasion. So because of ill-advised ambition, he returned to Mexico where he was seized as soon as he landed. Local officials executed him that same day. Iturbide strived to be a hero for the Mexico that he loved and so desperately wanted to succeed as a new independent state.
The impact of the contributions of Iturbide is apparent in the War for Independence. First, is the Plan of Iguala. This plan made a consensus possible amongst the majority. By proposing the "Three Guarantees" of independence, union, and religion, he offered an alternative solution to the main issues of the day. The Plan of Iguala was good in theory; however, it lacked feasibility. Once someone is placed in power who did not fear the Army of the Three Guarantees, they would return to whatever they saw fit.
This causes an analysis of the Treaty of Cordóba, which chose who would be placed in power. This Treaty also had little possibility of being successful. It was later declared by King Ferdinand VII that O'Donoju had no authority to sign the Treaty. O'Donoju had been reporting to the King that there was no hope for Spain in Mexico due to the peoples support of Iturbide. Later the Congress annulled both the Plan of Iguala and the Treaty of Cordova. They stated that the Mexican nation was bound not by its own consent, or that of its representatives appointed according to the public right of free nations.
On the same day that these acts were annulled the Congress also chose to exile Emperor Iturbide to Italy. They stated that he seized the crown through power and all claims to the crown were stricken from anyone in his family. The Congress was under a new influence at this point, Santa Anna and Guerrero, the true users of force and violence. Iturbide left without putting up any fight; however after settling in London, he encountered unrest about the state of Mexico. He saw things slipping back into the times prior to the liberation he had conceived. Although Mexico had been declared a sovereign state, the instability of everything caused powerful military leaders to seek out the all-powerful position. Iturbide returned to Mexico in an attempt to help. After his execution, it took over ten years for the Mexican government to realize their mistake. At that time his remains were transported to a place of honor in the great cathedral of Mexico City. Iturbide laid the ground for future revolutionaries to follow with his radical ideas of the "Three Guarantees" and the Treaty of Cordova.
Agustín de Iturbide was an ambitious man whose love for Mexico left him constantly looking for a way to improve it. By implementing the Plan of Iguala and the Treaty of Córdoba, an idea began to spread about the possibility of success for the common man. These acts offered the ideas of independence, union under one name, Mexican, and religious unity. Upon his execution in 1824, he cried: "Mexicans!...tell your children...to think with kindness of the first Chief of the Army of the Three Guarantees...if my children should stand in need of your protection, remember that their father spent the best season of his life laboring for your welfare!" Iturbide was the father of Mexicans and the stepfather to foreigners unlike some of the leaders that followed him.
Anna, Timothy, E.. The Mexican Empire of Iturbide. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990.
Robertson, William Spence. Iturbide of Mexico. New York: Greenwood Press, 1968.