A history of Mexican Independence Day

As part of Latino Heritage month, Sept. 15 – Oct. 15, the PWW/Mundo will run articles about the working-class history, culture and politics of the diverse Latino communities in the U.S., as well as important facts about the countries of origin.

Sept. 16 is Mexican Independence Day and along with celebrations in Mexico, in many areas of the U.S. it is celebrated with parades and flags, discussion forums and current struggles. The following is a brief history of the revolutionary “Grito de Dolores” reprinted from the Library of Congress website.

Early on the morning of Sept. 16, 1810, Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla summoned the largely Indian and mestizo congregation of his small Dolores parish church and urged them to take up arms and fight for Mexico’s independence from Spain. His “Grito de Dolores,” or “Cry of Dolores,” maintained the equality of all races and called for redistribution of land. Mexicans commemorate Sept. 16 as Mexican Independence Day.

Father Hidalgo was born into a moderately wealthy family in the city of Guanajuato, northwest of Mexico City, in 1753. He attended the Jesuit College of San Francisco Javier, received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Mexico in 1774, and was ordained into the priesthood in 1778. He soon earned the enmity of the orthodoxy, however, by openly challenging church doctrine.

In 1803, Hidalgo accepted the curacy of the small parish of Dolores, not far from Guanajuato. Between 1803 and 1810, he directed most of his energy to improving the economic prospects of his parishioners. He also joined a small literary club that, over time, became committed to securing Mexican independence from Spain.

In September 1810, Spanish authorities learned of the group’s plot to incite a rebellion. On Sept. 13, they searched the home of Epigmenio Gonzalez in the city of Queretaro, where they found a large supply of weapons and ammunition. Warned of his impending arrest, Hidalgo preempted authorities by issuing the “Grito de Dolores” on the morning of Sept. 16. Attracting enthusiastic support from the Indian and mestizo population, he and his band of revolutionaries moved toward the town of San Miguel.

The rebel army encountered its first serious resistance at Guanajuato. After a fierce battle that took the lives of more than 500 Spaniards and 2,200 Indians, the rebels won the city. By October, the revolutionary army, now 80,000 strong, was close to taking Mexico City. Hidalgo, fearful of unleashing the army on the capital city, hesitated, then retreated to the north. He was captured in Texas, then still a part of the Spanish Empire, and executed by firing squad on July 31, 1811. After ten more years of fighting, a weakened and divided Mexico won independence from Spain with the signing of the Treaty of Cordoba on Aug. 24, 1821.

To learn more about Mexican Independence Day and U.S.-Mexico relations, visit the Library of Congress website at memory.loc.gov/ammem/today/sep16.html/