Hidalgo y Castilla, Miguel
"Mexicanos, Viva Mexico!" were told the men in Dolores. This is what Miguel
Hidalgo y Castilla said when he made a historic decision to declare independence
from Spain. Hidalgo is known as "the Father of Independence." His
accomplishments and contributions made Mexico what it is seen today. His
achievements in the independence revolutionized the course of Mexican history.
Hidalgo was from a moderate well-off family. He was born in Mexico of Spanish
descent. Hidalgo was born in Corralejo Hacienda in Penjamo, Guanajuao on May 8,
1753. His father worked as mayorodomo (resident manager). Hidalgo was
well-educated liberal. He attended San Nicolás Obispo College. He received his
Bachelor's degree at the University of Mexico in 1774 in Theology. He was
ordained into priesthood in 1778 and returned to Valladolid to teach Theology,
Philosophy, and Ethics at the College of San Nicolás Obispo. He later became
By 1800, rumors and facts of Hidalgo's sinful doings had concerned the Holy
Office of the Inquisition. He was breaking laws, not taking his vows as serious
as he should be. He had adulterous affairs where he fathered two children out of
wedlock. He read anti-clerical works of the French encyclopedic philosophers and
seemed to disregard the Church.
In 1803, age of fifty, Hidalgo was given a parish in Dolores. He was the
priest there for many years. His house was open house to his parishioners. While
at Dolores his main concerns primarily were with improving the people of Dolores'
economic potential. Also, he turned over the clerical duties to one of his
vicars. He devoted himself to executive business and humanitarian activities. He
introduced new industries that helped the town become prosperous. He established
tile making, tanning, carpentry, wool weaving, beekeeping, silk growing, and
wine making. He gave this to the Indians and Mestizo to run, not to the
gachopines or native Spaniards.
Hidalgo was a member of the
Literary and Social Club of Queretaro. He helped found the
literary club, which included many well-educated corregidors. The club was
formed for intellectual discussion and later became the formatting the planning
and organization for revolution. The literary circle became the political circle
for the true incubators of the independence movement. Hidalgo questioned the
church policies including clerical celibacy, banning certain literature,
infallibility of the pope and the virgin birth of Christ. While at Queretaro
Hidalgo met with Captain Ignacio Allende. Allende was a revolutionary thinker in
the Spanish army and together they planned uprising for independence.
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.
Also, with the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars diverted the Spanish from
concentrating on their colonies. By Napoleon invading Spain and overthrowing
Ferdinand VII, birth of the separatist movement was born. Groups of criollos
across Mexico had been plotting to overthrow the authority of gachupines.
Hidalgo had planned to attack in December. However Hidalgo got word from Allende
that the gachupines knew of the revolt.
16 September 1810, marked the date of first face to face struggle. Hidalgo
rang the church bells at Dolores and said to the people:
" My friends and countrymen neither the king nor tributes exist for us any
longer. We have borne this shameful tax, which only suits slaves, for three
centuries as a sign of tyranny and servitude: [a] terrible stain which we shall
know now to was away with our efforts. The moment of our freedom has arrived,
the hour of out liberty has struck; and if you recognized its great value, you
will help me defend it from ambitious grasp of the tyrants. Only a few hours
remain before you see me a head of men who take pride in being free. I invite
you to fulfill this obligation. And so without a patria nor liberty we shall
always be at a great distance from true happiness. It has been imperative to
take this step as you know, and to begin this has been necessary. The cause is
holy and god will protect it. The arrangements are hastily being made and for
that reason I will not have satisfaction of talking to you any longer. Long
lives, then, the Virgin of Guadeloupe! Long live America for which we are going
This was a bold step for the Hidalgo to launch a revolt on the behalf of the
criollos. He gathered up an immense army of local Indians, and flew the banner
of Our Lady Guadalupe as a symbol of Independence.
The major causes for his independence were for social reform, exemplified in
the emancipation of slaves, the cession of the tribute tax, and the return of
the land to the indigenous Indians. The gachopines who claimed loyalty to the
French crown were also driven out of Mexico. Hidalgo was influential over his
men. He was well respect among the Indians and Mestizo. Hidalgo's army was armed
with weapons of clubs, slings, axes, knives, machetes, and the hatred of
gachopines. The Indians, although not armed as well as the Spaniards, attacked
repeated while facing superior Spanish artillery.
Hidalgo regretted the bloodshed that he had to incite among his people, but
he had made a decision. He never believed in the violence and mass slaughter of
Spaniards, but unfortunately, he did not have the power to control it.
Allende and Hidalgo also had problems. For example, when they were in the
town of San Miguel, Allende tried to calm his members down by hitting them on
the head with his sword. Hidalgo thought that he was mistreating the people. But
Hidalgo was even less qualified to be general than he was a priest.
The revolution force gathered together was more like a mob than an army was.
The men consisted of Indians and Mestizo from local towns near Dolores. Allende
and other criollo officers took part in the conspiracy and brought colonial
militia radical criollos into Hidalgo army. Hidalgo first swept through
everything before him. He captured San Miguel with 6,000 men. At Celaya he had
amassed of 20,000, and at Guanajuato, 50,000 men. When Hidalgo's army of 82,000
engulfed Toluca, to imitated Mexico City. Hidalgo did not go to Mexico City, he
only went to outskirts. However, on 21 March 1811, a periodic rebel turned
loyalist, Ignacio Elizondo, ambushed Allende, Hidalgo and associates at the
Wells of Bajan on the road to Monclova in Coahulia. Hidalgo and associates were
captured and executed in Chihuahua. On his execution day Hidalgo was placed in a
front of a gallantry. He instructed the firing squad to aim for his right hand
that was placed over his heart.
Despite Hidalgo accomplishments, he lost his life but his memory is
remembered for the conquest and the independence of Mexico. The revolution may
have taken 11 years to finally overthrown the Spaniards, but would not have
occurred without Hidalgo making the first move. He showed his compassion for the
criolos and his loathing of injustice. His intelligence and well-designed
economic development made up his achievements. This is why we can say that he is
the Father of Mexican Independence. Without Hidalgo, Mexico could still be under