Sabtu, 13 Agustus 2011

Mexico's Father of the Nation

In part one of this series we learned about Miguel Hidalgo, a creole priest who was no ordinary Spanish priest. He studied and tried using many ideas from the Enlightenment era that was taking place in Europe. Unfortunately the Spanish Inquisition was not pleased with his outspoken questioning of the crown's authority, indeed even the authority of the Pope. After narrowly escaping execution by the Inquisition, he returned to the parish of Dolores and continued in his new-world teaching.

As Hidalgo continued to educate and train local residents in trades, they became less and less dependent on the Spanish crown. These actions were in direct contradiction to several Spanish policies, so it was only a matter of time before he and his parishioners were punished. In 1807 there began a year long drought in which Dolores suffered immensely. Instead of the Spanish merchants releasing grain to the market for residents of Dolores to purchase, they kept it in storage in hopes of selling for a higher price. He was ordered to stop residents from their activities in agriculture and industry, but he did not.

Several townspeople and farmers were arrested as being suspected of organizing a revolt against the crown, and Hidalgo believed he was next. To prevent such an event, he called on his brothers and a few armed men to force a release of the imprisoned farmers, of which 80 were rescued. His next plan was profound to say the least. The day following his sanctioned jailbreak, he held mass that was attended by all the usual parties: land owners, politicians, Spanish soldiers, civilian Spaniards, townspeople, the poor, mestizos, creoles etc.

As parishioners began to arrive, Hidalgo gave what would be the most famous of Mexican speeches, the Grito de Dolores. It was a call for every person to revolt against the Spanish crown. He imparted the townspeople to stand up and "recover the lands stolen by three hundred years ago from your forefathers by the hated Spaniards...". Four days later the Battle of Guanajuato took place, widely considered the beginning of the Mexican War of Independence. He led a group of indigenous and mestizo followers that grew to an army and fought many battles over the next year. In 1810, he declared Mexico independent from Spain.

Less than a year later, on July 27 1811 Miguel Hidalgo was officially defrocked, excommunicated, and three days later executed by firing squad. His charges were treason against the Spanish crown. The independence that he paid for with his life was not officially recognized until 1821. Although it is clear to see why the Mexican people view Miguel Hidalgo as the Father of the Nation.

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