MEXICO CITY--(EON: Enhanced Online News)--Every year during Mexico’s famous Independence Day celebrations on Sept. 15 and 16, the country honors the memory of “the father of the nation,” Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, by recreating his famous “Grito de Dolores.” On Sept. 15, Hidalgo’s famous call for independence reverberates throughout the country as millions of Mexicans remember the man behind the Mexican War of Independence. From a priest in Dolores, to a revolutionary hero known throughout all of Mexico, Hidalgo’s contribution to Mexico’s independence is a remarkable point in the country’s fascinating history.
Born on May 8, 1753 in the Corralejo Hacienda in Penjamo, Guanajuato, Hidalgo was the son of Ana Maria Gallaga and Cristobal Hidalgo, the hacienda’s administrator. Ordained as a Catholic priest in 1778, Hidalgo often went against the grain, challenging traditional political and religious views of the time. He was also deeply inspired and influenced by the ideas of the Enlightenment movement in Europe, even though these ideas were not accepted in Mexico.
In 1803, Hidalgo became a parish priest in Dolores, Guanajuato. During his time there, he promoted several economic activities for his parishioners. Such activities included starting a pottery factory and workshops for carpentry, harness-making, blacksmithing, weaving and brickmaking. He was also responsible for planting a mulberry tree for silkworms, vineyards and olive groves. His main goal was to promote activities that would make the Indians and mestizos of the area more self-sufficient and less dependent on Spanish economic policies.
War for Independence & “El Grito”
While in Dolores, Hidalgo became an active conspirator against Spanish rule, along with Ignacio Allende and others. They planned an uprising for Dec. 11, 1810, but were ultimately discovered by viceregal authorities. Fearing his arrest, Hidalgo commanded his brother Mauricio, as well as Ignacio Allende and Mariano Abasolo to travel with a number of other armed men to the local prison, where they would make the sheriff release the pro-Independence prisoners.
They were successful in releasing 80 inmates. Just before midnight on Sept. 15, Hidalgo ordered the church bells to be rung and gathered his congregation. The morning of Sept 16, 1810, Hidalgo launched the rebellion with his famous “Grito de Dolores.”
With the “Grito,” Hidalgo called the people of his parish to leave their homes and join him in his struggle against Spanish rule. Hidalgo’s “Grito” greatly emphasized his opposition to the viceregal government and his loyalty to the Catholic religion.
After his famous cry for independence, and with several hundred followers, Hidalgo was able to capture the town of San Miguel. Marching through Celaya, Guanajuato, Valladolid and Toluca, the number of followers grew, and Hidalgo was able to capture these towns in a series of simple victories over the course of two weeks. Hidalgo, with no military training, quickly became the leader of a new “army” with no experience or equipment.
Hidalgo’s Untimely End
Instead of following up on his victories and continuing onto Mexico City, the tide turned against the Mexican rebels. They were defeated at Aculco in the state of Mexico by Royalist General Felix Maria Calleja. In March 1811, Hidalgo, Allende and the other revolutionaries were ambushed and captured by the Spaniards. Hidalgo was taken to the city of Chihuahua and soon turned over to the Bishop of Durango for a defrocking and excommunication on July 27, 1811. He was found guilty of treason by a military court and executed by a firing squad on July 30, 1811. His body, along with those of Allende, Jimenez and Aldama were decapitated, with the heads placed on the four corners of the Alhondiga de Granaditas in Guanajuato. The heads remained there for 10 years, until the end of the war. Hidalgo’s body was first displayed outside the prison, and later buried in the Church of St. Francis in Chihuahua. His remains would then be transferred to Mexico City in 1824.
With the execution of Hidalgo and the other insurgent leaders, the viceregal government believed it had dealt a fatal blow to the rebellion. However, the fight for independence continued until 1821, the year that Mexico finally freed itself from Spanish rule. Mexico's independence was ultimately recognized by the Spanish viceroy on September 27, 1821.
Today, the Alhondiga de Granaditas and the Church of St. Francis are great tourist attractions, along with the church in Dolores where the first “Grito” was heard, as well as the prison cell in Chihuahua’s Governor’s Palace where Hidalgo awaited trial.
In honor of Hidalgo’s memory, one of Mexico’s new commemorative bicentennial routes is dedicated to “the father of the nation.” La Ruta de Hidalgo Norte retraces the footsteps of independence leaders Hidalgo, Allende, Aldama, Jimenez and their army, as they desperately attempted to reach the United States to buy arms and mount an offensive that never came. To travel this route is to travel the same distances and view the same scenery that these men did in Mexico’s fight for independence. This route passes through several important cities including Monterrey, Matehuala, Real de Catorce and Monclova.
Mexico’s Independence Today
Today, Hidalgo is affectionately known as the “father of the nation” for spearheading the Mexican War of Independence. Every year, on the night of September 15, the president of Mexico addresses the Mexican people assembled in Mexico City’s Zocalo (main square), one of the largest in the world. Standing on the central balcony of Mexico City’s National Palace, the president proudly waves the Mexican flag and rings the historic liberty bell that Hidalgo once rang. This is followed by the “Grito” (Viva Hidalgo! Viva Mexico! Viva la Independencia!).
Crowds of hundreds of thousands echo back the call. Simultaneously, governors and mayors perform the “Grito” from their local government balconies. Those not able to join their fellow compatriots at the local main squares avidly watch the national “Grito” on television and repeat the chant in their living rooms. After the last Viva México is proclaimed, the national anthem is sung.
Shortly after, fireworks explode in the air and celebrations begin. In recent years, Mexico City’s Zocalo has hosted numerous bands and famous musicians on a large stage set in front of the Cathedral. Confetti abounds and the dancing begins. The following day is an official holiday in Mexico and includes a military parade and plenty of political fanfare.
Mexicans show their green-white-red pride with elaborate decorations on their homes and place flags in their windows and cars. During this time, families come together and enjoy some tasty Independence Day treats such as the infamous Chiles en Nogada. Inspired by the Mexican flag, the dish contains a green poblano chili, covered in creamy white walnut sauce and sprinkled with bright red pomegranate seeds.
About the Mexico Tourism Board
The Mexico Tourism Board (MTB) brings together the resources of federal and state governments, municipalities and private companies to promote Mexico's tourism attractions and destinations internationally. Created in 1999, the MTB functions as an executive agency of Mexico’s Tourism Secretariat, with autonomous management and the broad participation of the private sector. The MTB has offices throughout North America, Europe, Asia and Latin America.
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