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Mexican War of Independence

The Mexican War developed because of political problems in Spain and Mexico at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Spain was having a tough time financially, so they started to take money from their colonies for 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 legal King Ferdinand VII.

Mexico City was stable in 1809, but other areas around the city were struggling. Disruptions in manufacturing and a poor crop harvest led to an economic slowdown and a famine in 1810. In Queretaro, a large agricultural center, some unhappy men (criollos) wanted to take the power away from the peninsulars (elite people of the church). The criollos hired the Indians and mixed-blood peasants to help them. Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla led the rebellion against the bad government and Spaniards on September 16, 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. In January 1811, they defeated Hidalgo outside Guadalajara, forcing the rebel leadership to flee north toward the United States. Hidalgo and his men hoped to find shelter in the northeastern Mexican provinces where other fighting had broken out. In Nuevo Santander, Royalists forces rioted against the governor when they were ordered to march toward San Luis Potosi to fight the rebels. Governor Manuel Antonio Cordero y Bustamante of Coahuila had 700 troops leave him in January 1811 when they were faced with the rebel army of between 7,000 and 8,000 men.

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 when there was an invasion from the United States under the leadership of Jose Bernardo Gutierrez de Lara and Augustus Magee. 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. Morelos had a clearer vision of Mexico’s future and had good organizational and political skills. Under Morelos, a clear declaration of independence from Spain was made and a constitution was written. Morelos lost his leadership position to his rivals and was later captured and executed. 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 happened 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 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 met with widespread approval. In July 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 met with Iturbide and signed the Treaty of Cordoba granting Mexico its independence.


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

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