The war for Independence 1810- 1821

Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla

   Jose Marcia Morelos y Pavon  

  Congress of Chilpancingo  

  Army revolt in Spain

 Plan de Iguala   






Unlike in America, where there was a broad groundswell at indignation at English abuses and taxation without representation, only a few conspired for independence in New Spain . There were some military officers kept out of the highest ranks by virtue of  being born in New Spain rather than the motherland.  Merchants and civil servants exposed to ideas of the Enlightenment and the American and French revolutions. The most radical were the parish priests who saw the suffering of their Indian parishioners firsthand. Most Creoles (Criollo) wished to change the system so that they could have equality with the peninsulares, but not equality for all.  Creole discontent with Spanish rule had been brewing since the expulsion of the Jesuits in 1767 . Many of the Jesuits were Creoles . When Napoleon occupied Spain in 1809, direct Spanish control over the colonies was lost and the flame of rebellion spread .The lower classes, the Indians and mixed castes had nothing much to lose, their lot was so hard . They did rebel, but these rebellions were not organized enough to spread far .



 The Mexican War of Independence

Charles IV


Despite a lack of fervor for radical change as in France and America, events in Europe caused it to be a necessity . Unlike the wise Charles III, his son Charles IV ( 1788 -1808 ) exploited the wealth of the colonies. The most ruinous decision was to take the charitable funds of the church to help pay for European wars . These church funds were sources of credit for Creoles. The church had to call in their mortgages, destroying many Creoles financially .Uprisings against Charles IV in Spain forced him abdicate in favor of his son in 1808 .



It all began with a "shout", with Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla calling on the people of New Spain to fight for their independence


 The Mexican Wars for Independence

This perceptive history paints Mexico's 1810–1821

struggle for independence


There was more turmoil in Spain when Napoleon forced the Spanish Bourbons into exile and place his brother Joseph on the Spanish throne in 1808 . Because Spain was virtually cut off from its colonies during the Peninsular War of 1808 - 1814, Latin America was, in these years, ruled by independent juntas. Without a true Spanish monarchy, many Creoles thought they should rule themselves. The peninsulares thought otherwise .The Inquisition was used to spy against and try those who agitated for reform . By 1810 many secret societies were formed by Creoles to fight for independence . 


Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla 



One of the first to call for independence was priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla (May 8, 1753  –  July 30, 1811) in Guanajuato . He became a bishop in 1778 and was investigated by the Inquisition in 1800 for questioning the celibacy of priests ( he had a mistress ), reading proscribed books, doubting the veracity of the virgin birth and the infallibility of the pope and considered the king a tyrant .However, none of these charges could be proved and he was released . However, he lost his position as a rector at the collage of San Nicolas in Morelia .


Ignacio Allende


He became the priest in the city of Dolores in 1803 . A few years later he met the revolutionary Ignacio Allende, a captain of the cavalry . Allende introduced him to his revolutionary coterie and planned an uprising for December 8, 1810. However, the plot was discovered and they decided to strike for independence at once .Hidalgo rang the church bells and summoned  his parishioners and delivered his famous grito ( cry ) de Dolores on September 16, 1810. Until he delivered his speech he was a minor figure in the revolutionary movement  . In response to his call ' Viva Guadalupe ! ( after the Virgin of Guadalupe, who became an independence symbol, her humble clothes contrasting with the richly decorate virgin of the secular church ) The crowd shouted Death to the peninsulares !

The initial response was enthusiastic . With Hidalgo at their head, they marched for San Miguel, gathering more recruits along the way. They took San Migual without trouble and the local militia joined the rebels . They started to pillage and Hidalgo could not control them. Next they took Celya and then marched on Guanajuato. There the peninsulares gathered in a makeshift fortress and decided to wait for aid from Mexico City .


 History of Mexico - The of the fight for Independence

Alhondiga de Granaditas


 La Antorcha encendida : la toma de la Alhondiga de Granaditas

It never came and over 500 peninsulares were killed holding out in the Alhondiga de Granaditas (public granary) and 2,000 rebels were killed . Hidalgo and Allende felt strong enough at this time to split their forces . Within a month they had taken the important silver mining town of Zacatecas, San Luis Potosi and Valladolid . By late October the army had about 80,000 marching on Mexico City .


Site of the battle of Monte de las Cruces


La Batalla del Monte de Las Cruces


The professional army was defeated by sheer numbers at Monte de las Cruces . The army retreated into Mexico City . An immediate attack on Mexico City might have taken the city and brought independence then . However, Hidalgo had taken heavy losses and was short of ammunition . He was also hesitant to let the undeciplined forces lose on Mexico City . Over Allendes objection he decided to retreat into toward Guadalajara and the Spanish forces under General Felix Calleja began to regroup . The rebels took Guadalajara .


Battle of Puente de Calderon


 La Antorcha Encendida ~ Puente de Calderón Battle of Puente de Calderon

The Spanish army engaged them at Puente de Calderon. In the middle of the battle, a Spanish cannon shot hit a rebel ammunition wagon and the resulting explosion caused a panic in the rebel army and thousands of rebels broke rank and ran, turning into a rout . Hidalgo and Allende took what was left of their forces and retreated northward. They were betrayed and captured in the Texas territory and  executed for treason by firing squad on July 31, 1811. Their decapitated heads hung of the walls where the Spaniards were slaughtered at Alhondiga de Granaditas for 10 years as a warning .

 Miguel Hidalgo was executed at the Government Palace of Chihuahua

 on July 30, 1811 by a Spanish firing squad

The Independence movement after

the death of Miguel Hidalgo


Jose Maria Morelos y Pavon


Jose Maria Morelos y Pavon 


The popularity of the Independence movement waned after this . The movement was continued under the mestizo priest Jose Maria Morelos y Pavon (September, 30, 1765, – December 22, 1815 ) , who had been recruited by Hildago . Morelos organized his soldiers into small bands that carried out guerrilla warfare . By 1813 they won enough territory to encircle the capital . Morelos proved to be a talented strategist, and became one of the greatest revolutionary military commanders of the independence movement. In his first nine months, he won 22 victories, defeating the armies of three Spanish royalist leaders and dominating almost all of what is now the state of Guerrero. In December, he captured Acapulco for the first time, except for the fortress of San Diego.


Congress of Chilpancingo  

( September to November 1813 )



Morelos then held a congress in Chilpancingo to discuss the plans for the nation once the Spanish were driven out . They issued a Declaration of Independence, those opposed to it were guilty of treason . In their constitution that declared that suffrage should be universal and that slavery and the caste system should be abolished. Government monopolies should also be done away with and replaced with a 5% income tax . Catholicism would remain the official religion of the state .

Viceroy Apodaca


Meanwhile, the Spanish army gathered strength and broke the encirclement, retaking many towns . Gradually, the rebel army dwindled and in 1815 Morelos was captured and executed .

The execution of Morelos

 With the execution of Morelos the Independence movement reached its lowest point . For the next 5 years the movement was little more than guerrilla fighting by a number of independent bands without coordination . After awhile only two major bands remained, one led by Guadalupe Victoria with about 2.000 troops around Puebla and Vicente Guerrero with about 1,000 around Oaxaca . By 1819, the Spanish viceroy, Juan Ruiz de Apodaca was able to report to king Ferdinand that the situation was under control .He offered a pardon for all who would lay down their arms.


King Ferdinand VII


Army revolt in Spain 


Meanwhile, King Ferdinand had been gathering a powerful fighting force to quell the more serious Independence movements in South America . At Cadiz, Spain, in January 1820, troops who had assembled for an expedition to America were angry over infrequent pay, bad food, and poor quarters and mutinied under the leadership of Colonel Rafael del Riego y Nunez .Colonel Rafael Riego declared himself in revolt and  thousands of troops followed . The Spanish troops demanded that the king should abide by the liberal Spanish Constitution of 1812 which affirmed the sovereignty of the people, free speech and curbed the power of the church . If this was not done there would be a military coup .The king, a virtual prisoner of the army at this point, yielded to their demands .


Ironically, the Creoles found this change too liberal, and began to support Independence and secretly meet with the former colonel Agustin de Iturbide to be their leader to insure a more conservative government . Iturbide  had fought against the rebels for nearly a decade . He  resigned from the royal  army after being accused of corruption. The Creoles convinced the viceroy to reinstate him in the army .


Colonel Iturbide


Plan de Iguala 


In 1820 viceroy Apodaca placed colonel  Iturbide in charge of 2,500 men to fight Guerrero .  Iturbide marched his force toward those of  Guerrero and instead of fighting him  asked for a meeting and  peace if he could dictate the terms . Guerrero agreed and on Feb 24 they issued the Plan de Iguala, the major points of which were that: independent Mexico would be a constitutional monarchy, led by King Ferdinand or another European prince , . The Catholic Church would remain the only official church in the country, Creoles and peninsularies would have equal rights. A new army would be created, the Army of the Three Guarantees to enforce the plan .


Flag of the Army of the Three Guarantees 

The three guarantees which it was meant to defend: religion, independence, and unity. Mexico was to be a Catholic country, independent from Spain, and united against its enemies.


This was a much more conservative plan than that of Morelos. The revolution of Hidalgo and Morelos never gathered support from the conservative upper classes of New Spain, this plan could and military units and common people began to defect to the Army of the Three Guarantees. Priests spoke in support of it from the pulpit . Even many Spanish in Mexico supported the plan since they saw a future for themselves in Mexico, unlike the earlier more radical plans that demanded death or exile of the peninsulares .After many cities fell to the Army of the Three Guarantees, viceroy Apodaca resigned .


Independence Celebration in Mexico City




The Crown was not ready to give up New Spain and appointed a new viceroy, Juan de O'Donoju, the last viceroy of New Spain . O'Donoju became convinced that Spain could not hold on to Mexico, and accepted the Plan de Iguala and signed a treaty at Cordoba . One more proviso was added by Iturbide ; if no European leader was available to become the emperor of Mexico,  a Mexican congress would chose an emperor, this was to become an important point . On September 27, 1821 , Iturbide marched into the capital with Vicente Guerrero and Guadalupe Victoria and the army. After so many years of fighting and over 300 years of Spanish rule, Mexico was independent at last .



1519 - 1713




First Mexican Empire