This Day In History: The Mexican War of Independence Begins (1810)

On this day in history Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, a Catholic priest issues a proclamation that is usually regarded as the beginning of the Mexican War of Independence in 1810.  The War begins when he issues a proclamation that calls for the end of 300 years of Spanish rule.  The tract which is soon widely read, calls for equality for all in Mexico and the end of discrimination against the native Indians and those of mixed race. Thousands of Indians and mestizos flocked to Hidalgo’s army. Hidalgo’s army fight’s under the banner of the  ‘Virgin of Guadalupe’, and soon the peasant army was on the march to Mexico City, the capital of the Viceroyalty of New Spain. The revolt was initially very successful and there was little or no resistance to the rebels. This was because Spain had been extremely weakened by events in Europe. In the early years of the nineteenth century, the French had invaded Spain. Napoleon had made his brother the King of Spain and had occupied the country with a huge army. This weakened the Spanish Empire in Latin America and a wave of revolts spread across the region. Hidalgo often known as the ‘Father of Mexican Independence’ came very close to capturing Mexico City. He was defeated at Calderon in 1811 and he was eventually captured and executed. However, many other populist leaders followed his example and they also launched revolts seeking reform and independence. They led racially mixed armies, against the Spanish administration and their royalist supporters. The members of the lower classes, the Indians and those of mixed race were eager to see the end of the political order as they suffered widespread discrimination at the hands of the largely white governing class and their royalist sympathizers.

Napoleon at the surrender of Madrid in Spain

Ironically, it was the Royalists–who made the break with the Spain. They wanted to guard their privileged positions in Mexico and especially to protect their vast landed estates. In 1821 Augstin de Iturbide the commander of the Royalist forces saw that he could no longer suppress the endless rounds of revolts and adopted a different tactic. He introduced a new plan. This plan would guarantee Mexico her freedom from Spain, recognize the privileged position of the Catholic Church and established an independent monarchy.  Spanish and Mexicans of Spanish descent were to have equal rights. However, the plan also stated that Indians and those of mixed race would only have lesser rights. The Spanish send a new viceroy to Mexico but he had little money and few men. Iturbide defeated the remaining royalists and Spain was forced to recognize Mexican Independence.

When no suitable candidate for the throne of Mexico was found, Iturbide was proclaimed the emperor of Mexico. He reigned for less than a year and was deposed in a revolution led by General Santa-Anna.