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Celebrate Mexican Independence from Spain!

On September 16, 1810, Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla started the Mexican War for Independence with his Grito de Dolores, a cry/proclamation in the town of Dolores. As a result, Mexico celebrates September 16 as its Independence Day.

I celebrate Mexican Independence with Mexico. Not only because the achievement is worthy of praise in and of itself. But also, without Mexican independence from Spain, it is unlikely that Texas would have won its independence from Mexico.

The Mexican Revolution was complicated by the rigid hierarchical structure of Mexican society at the time. There were four groups of people in a hierarchy based on racial lines. At the top of the society were native Spaniards who were living in Mexico called gachopines. Pure blooded Spaniards who were born in Mexico were second tier, being called criollos. Below that were mixed blood Spaniard-Indians called mestizos. And at the bottom of the society, living in serfdom to their gachopine and criollo lords were the native indios.

The criollos chafed under gachopine rule. When Napoleon displaced Spanish King Ferdinand with Napolean’s brother, Joseph Bonaparte, many criollos saw an opportunity to declare independence. Their plan was to declare loyalty to King Ferdinand and displace the gachapines who had become willing vassals of Bonaparte. Father Hidalgo was involved in these plans, but they were discovered, and word got back to him that the authorities planned his arrest.

This news forced Hidalgo to act. And instead of waiting to be arrested or fleeing, he chose to switch the plan for criollo displacement of gachopines, and instead activated the indios and mestizos into the revolution. The indios, of course had almost three centuries of grievances at the hands of the Spanish. And the mestizos had plenty to resent from the Spanish overlords.

After some initial successes (and excesses in the slaughter of both gachapines and criollos) of his followers, Hidalgo was captured four months later, and later executed. The Spanish did not mess around when it came to revolution. They cut off the head of Father Hidalgo and other leaders and put them in a cage on the side of a prominent building called the Alhondiga in Guanajuato, the town 30 miles from Dolores that was the first city taken by the rebels. Those heads stayed on display for eleven years until Mexico finally won its independence 11 years later.

Texas played a prominent role in the 11 year war that was finally won from the French puppet government controlling Spain in 1821. Texans, after all were a long way from the regional government in Mexico City and an even longer way from Spain. The Texans of that day understood the benefits of decentralized self-government, too.

I am eagerly looking forward to a forthcoming book on the Mexican War for Independence in Texas from my friend, James Bernsen. Texas involvement in that war include the Casas Revolt in San Antonio in January of 1811, the Battle of Medina and the sack (and rape) of San Antonio in August, 1813, the Mina Expedition that sailed from Galveston in April, 1817, and defeat of Henry Perry’s filibusters northeast of what was then called La Bahia (now Goliad).

An interesting fact of Texas history is that in 1829 the town of La Bahia changed its name to honor Hidalgo with rearranged letters (a phonetic anagram). The name became, Goliad. I think the name was changed in a surreptitious manner to indicate opposition to the centralized dictatorship of Santa Anna, without arousing the attention of the dictator.


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