Mexican War of Independence

Political problems in Spain and Mexico in the early nineteenth century led to friction. Spain was suffering financially, so it took money from the colonies for use by the royal family. Mexico suffered as a result. France invaded Spain in 1808 and replaced King Ferdinand VII with Napoleon’s brother. The Spanish empire rejected his leadership. Mexico’s elite took this opportunity to create a provisional (temporary) government acting in the name of the king.

Mexico City was stable in 1809, but other areas struggled. Disruptions in manufacturing and a poor harvest led to an economic slowdown and famine. The criollos wanted to take the power away from the peninsulars (elite people of the church). The criollos hired Indians and mixed-blood peasants. Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla led the rebellion against the government in 1810.

The revolution began with looting (stealing) in Guanajuato and lead to the killing of many peninsulars and criollos. The strong leaders of the Spanish government soon had Hidalgo’s Indian army retreating. They defeated Hidalgo outside Guadalajara, forcing the rebel leadership to flee toward the US. Hidalgo and his men sought shelter in the northeastern Mexican provinces where other fighting had broken out. In Nuevo Santander, Royalist forces rioted against the governor when they were ordered to fight the rebels.

Some rebels were successful, but not for long. The Spanish troops began retaking positions from the rebels. In March, Ignacio Elizondo, a loyalist officer, attacked rebel leaders, including Father Hidalgo. The Royalists had regained control. Only in Texas, Spanish royal authority was threatened by an invasion from the United States. In August 1813, General Arredondo defeated the rebels at the battle of Medina and secured Texas for the Spanish king.

After the capture and killing of Hidalgo and Allende, Jose Maria Morelos y Pavon became the leader of the independence struggle. He had a clear vision of Mexico’s future. He declared independence from Spain and wrote a constitution. Yet Morelos’s rivals executed him. At the same time, the struggle for independence broke down into smaller local revolts and did not threaten the Spanish authorities in Mexico until 1820.

The final push for independence came when Mexicans reacted to revolutionary events in Spain. The rebel army forced the king to restore the Constitution of 1812. Political tensions between reform-minded Mexicans and colonial authorities led Agustin de Iturbide, a royal officer, to come to an agreement with the leading Mexican rebel, Vicente R. Guerrero. Together they proposed a plan for independence called the Plan de Iguala. It included three guarantees: preserve the Catholic Church’s status; Mexico would be an independent constitutional monarchy; and all Spaniards and criollos were equal. Although Spanish authorities tried to stop it, the plan was approved widely. In 1821, when Juan O’Donoju took over the colonial government, the Spanish loyalists controlled only Mexico City and Veracruz. Realizing that all was lost, O’Donoju and Iturbide signed the Treaty of Cordoba, granting Mexico its independence.

Source: Mexican War of Independence
Copyright © Texas State Historical Association

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