Father Serra - Missionary

Father Serra - Missionary
Always forward, never back

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Mexico's War of Independence

I always thought Mexico's war to free itself of Spanish rule was a spontaneous revolt sparked by a priest named Hildago on Sept 16, 1810. No – it was NOT the 5th of May! The Mexicans celebrate this with El Grito, shouting Viva Mexico!

However, as I reach the point in my Book Four of Father Serra's Legacy, The Missions Whither, I am learning a lot that explains the rebellion and what actually happened. It took more than 10 years after the original declaration in 1810 until the war was won, forcing Spain in leave Mexico in 1821.

I was also surprised to learn that Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, a local priest and member of a group of educated Criollos in Querétaro, met in tertulias (salons) and arrived at the conclusion that a revolt against the colonial government was needed because of the events of the Peninsular War. Hidalgo had already achieved notoriety—he gambled, fornicated, had children out of wedlock and didn't believe in Hell. Most seriously, he encouraged his parishioners to illegally grow vines and olives. A real example of priestly piety.

In addition, I learned that the second hero of the revolution, Colonel Agustín de Iturbide was, in realit, a turncoat and coniver. In December 1820, Viceroy Juan Ruiz de Apodaca sent a force led by Iturbide, who claimed he supported the king and Catholic church, to fight the rebels led by Guerrero, one of the original founders of the rebellion. Instead, figuring the king was weak due to a rebellion in Spain, Iturbide switched sides, doing what he could to bring his fellow Criollos to power.

Again, to repeat a point in an earlier post, Mexico was ruled by a strict set of class diversities. Peninsulars born in Spain held the most powerful and rewarding posts – regardless of their skills or abilities. Criollos born in Mexico but of pure Spanish blood were second-class citizens and limited in their abilities to advance. Mestizos, those of mixed Spanish and Indian blood were next, while the poor, pure blooded Indians were last.

While Iturbide insisted he was of pure Spanish blood, some claimed his mother was actually a Mestiza.

Also, the original rebellion was run by men who were cruel and went to extreme measures against anyone claiming loyalty to the crown. Guerrero and Morelo amassed land and power using those poor Mestizos and Indians who thought they were fighting for their freedom. It was because of this cruelty that the viceroy, with far fewer troops, was able to keep the rebels from winning for so long.

Iturbide was smart. As part of his plan to make Mexico independent, he even went so far as to offer King Ferdinand the throne of Mexico if he got kicked out of Spain. When that didn't work, Ituebide managed to get himself appointed/elected as emperor of Mexico. He quickly disbanded the congress and replaced it with a sympathetic junta of his own officers.

And, what makes this whole thing interesting is how The Corsican Corporal played a role in Mexico's independence. Boneparte messed up everything in Europe, including the Spanish throne. When Ferdinand VII regained power, he purged all the anti-royalists from Spain, causing a rebellion of generals which led to certain groups of Criollos in Mexico to believe they had a chance to win.

And then, of course, along comes Antonio de Padua María Severino López de Santa Anna y Pérez de Lebrón, another big shot who fought against Mexico's idependence before fighting for it. From a mere lieutenant in 1810, Santa Anna rose to the rank of general in 1821 after running Spanish forces out of Verazcruz.

In the end, the whole story is a lot different from the American War for Independence in that Mexico's was a class struggle more than an economic one. In 1824, after Iturbide was kicked out, a constitution was drawn up, forming The United Mexican States. It was based on the Constitution of Cadiz for American issues, on the United States Constitution for the formula for federal representation and organization, and on the Constitutional Decree for the Liberty of Mexican America of 1814, which abolished the monarchy.

Mexico's independence is indeed an interesting – and somewhat confusing – period of history. And, it makes the process of writing most absorbing and entertaining. A lot of the myths one hears turn out to be far from true and heroes come up with Achilles heels.

Now – how to interweave all of this in the threads of the story. How does all of this affect those living in California – a true outpost of the country, already cut off for supplies and assistance?

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