“Que Padre!” Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla: The Father of Mexican Independence

Miguel Hidalgo | Courtesy of The New York Public Library

Every 16th of September, there is a great celebration that occurs in Mexico. It is the celebration of independence, also known as “El Grito de Dolores” or “Cry of Dolores.” At twelve in the morning, yells of thousands can be heard throughout Mexico, expressing their love for the country and made in memory of the yell made by Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla to alert the church that the fight for Mexican independence had begun. Although well known, some people may not know of the work and sacrifice that went into gaining Mexico’s independence from Spain. Most notably, this revolution was due to an individual named Miguel Hidalgo. He was a Mexican priest, and history has recorded his meaningful involvement in Mexico’s fight for independence.1

During the time when the French Emperor Napoleon invaded Spain, the desire for independence and freedom was peaked in Mexico. But long before that, around the year 1773, there was a man by the name of Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla who obtained his bachelor’s degree from San Nicolás College and who became ordained a priest in 1778.2 As time past by, Hidalgo noticed how the Spanish would oppress the Mexican people, ultimately leading him to take a role that would impact Mexico’s future forever. Due to his charisma and outstanding personality, he was able to influence the Mexican lower classes to rise.

Banner held up by Hidalgo during battle | Courtesy of Wikimedia Common

Miguel Hidalgo’s major involvement in the Mexican revolution was to motivate the lower class to rise up against the Spanish rule. Along with the help of Ignacio Allende and other revolutionaries, Hidalgo planned to revolt. However, early in September 1810, the revolutionary plan was exposed to the Spanish, along with who the revolutionaries were. Hidalgo had to think quick in order to find a way to inform the people that the revolution needed to begin earlier than when they had planned.3 They rang the church bells, and Hidalgo then gathered Mexicans together to hear him speak. He spoke about the consequences of being subjects of Spain, and to give a final push, he made the image of The Virgin of Guadalupe his banner for revolution. Most Mexicans were from the Catholic faith, so they viewed this revolution as a religious responsibility.

As time passed by, Hidalgo fought a number of battles against the Spanish, some with better outcomes than others. When the Spanish forces were reinforced, he headed north, which ultimately led to the Battle at Calderón Bridge.4 The battle ended terribly. The Spanish captured Hidalgo and his companions. He and the rest were taken to Chihuahua, Mexico, where they were put on trial. Miguel Hidalgo was found guilty, then shot and decapitated on July 30, 1811. Though Miguel Hidalgo was not around to see it, his death motivated Mexican troops to continue his cause of revolution. His actions had been necessary in order for the people of Mexico to come together and fight to gain its independence by 1821.

Map of the Battle of the Bridge of Calderon | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

 

Statue of Don Miguel Hidalgo | Courtesy of Creative Commons

Today, the impact of Miguel Hidalgo is remembered every year with ” El Grito de Dolores,” often also referred to as ” El Grito de Independencia,” which translates to ” the cry of Dolores” and ” the cry of independence,” which is in remembrance of the day when Miguel rang the bells of his church and proclaimed the Mexican fight for independence. There is no doubt that Miguel Hidalgo will go down in history not just because he gave up his life fighting for revolution, but because he had the courage to fight when no one else did. He was able to gather a Mexican army to fight back and little did he know that his actions would be a pivot point in order to achieve Mexican independence. There are multiple statues of him throughout Mexico, but the most notable one is in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. People walk past the statue every day and remember the great sacrifice that was made in order to have the Mexico that is established today.

  1. Christon I. Archer, Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla (1753–1811) (Detroit: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2008), 687-689.
  2. E. Del Hoyo, Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla (Detroit: La Vida del héroe, 2003), 820-821.
  3. Marvin Alisky, Miguel Hidalgo Y Costilla (Scarecrow Press, 2007), 259-260.
  4. Wil G. Pansters, Mexico (New York, Macmillan Reference USA, 2001,), 1447-1464.
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15 Comments

  • In the town where I grew up, we had a Mexican independence parade every year on the Sunday before September 16th, and it was always one of my favorite days of the year, and now that I know a little bit more about the history of the day, I think I’ll appreciate the day and celebration even more. The Mexican people were definitely the underdogs in their battle for independence, and I’m so glad that they were able to overcome that obstacle and win the war, even if Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla wasn’t there to witness it.

  • Miguel Hidalgo can be seen as the spark of hope for Mexico to become independent. He was the one who brought together all the Mexicans in order to revolt against Spain’s rule. Ultimately, his death was not in vain because the Mexican revolt grew in power. Hidlago is definitely the one who set the ball rolling for Mexico’s independence which ultimately succeeded against the odds.

  • I believe Miguel Hidalgo deserves the title of Father of Mexican Independence because as the article states, he was a strong advocate and leader. He was very prepared, given he attended a university. He was liked by many and appealed to their religious identity. Through historical patterns we observe change only occurs when the people are brave enough to stand up against the lead power and when they unite. In this case, Miguel Hidalgo persuaded based on the struggles of maintaining with the governance of Spain.

  • This article brought back memories of elementary school, when back in Mexico we were given history classes and talked about this Cura who fought for our freedom in the name of La Virgen de Guadalupe. Even if he was captured and murdered, he left everything set and started for the rest of the Mexican people to follow and end it. There is so much meaning and pride the 16 de Septiembre every year remembering both Miguel Hidalgo and la Virgen de Guadalupe.

  • Its amazing to see that with the right type of charisma, one man can lead an entire country to fight for what is needed and to break free from a controlling power that is more established than themselves. Being from south Texas this story has been told to me many times by friends, family members or just other elders which fascinates me and inspires me every time I hear it because these are those stories that defy the odds.

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