The Ongoing Mexican War of Independence

As if by osmosis, Mexican-Spanish is creeping into my daily language.  My city of temporary residence is San Miguel de Allende, proudly proclaimed by locals to be “Mexico’s Corazon”.  This is Mexico’s heart for at least two reasons.  It is as near the geographical center as you can possibly estimate in an odd-shaped country like this, and it was the beating heart of The Mexican War of Independence, finally ending the occupation by the Spanish Empire nearly two centuries ago.

This article was inspired by last night.  A long, sleepless night in which this entire neighborhood partied, children laughed and danced in the streets, and then, of course, there were the obligatory fireworks.  Mucho fireworks.  Mexicans do love their celebrations, and apparently last night’s sleep disruptions marked the 205th anniversary of the conviction and execution of this city’s namesake and most famous resident, for the crime of treason against Spain. Ignacio Jose’ de Allende y Unzaga was born and raised just a few blocks from my casita.  His home is now a public museum, across from the Jardin.

0-Ignacio Allende statue in San Miguel de Allende

When Mexicans in these parts speak of the war which freed them from Spanish rule, two names come up:  Ignacio Allende, the soldier and Miguel Hidalgo, the parish priest.  Once called San Miguel el Grande, this town changed its name to San Miguel de Allende in honor of the soldier.  A nearby town, once named simply “Dolores” changed its name, in remembrance of Father Miguel Hidalgo, to Dolores Hidalgo, or more completely to “Dolores Hidalgo Cuna de la Independencia Nacional” (Dolores Hidalgo Cradle of National Independence).

0Padre Miguel Hidalgo statue in Dolores Hidalgo

Sick and tired of a 300 year oppressive Spanish occupation, and seizing upon the opportunity of a weakened Spain, which was under attack by France, Father Miguel Hidalgo fired up the peasantry in Dolores with his famous speech known as “El Grito de Dolores” (Cry of Dolores).  Although there exists no exact transcript of his enthusiastic and successful call to arms, it is clear that he called for a return of the land to the peasantry, an end to Spanish control, and death to the Gachupines (Spanish occupiers).  All Gachupines.

At the same time, here in nearby San Miguel, Ignacio Allende, a career officer in the occupying Spanish Army, had been conspiring for several years to turn against the Spanish in favor of revolution and freedom for Mexico.  Born of so-called noble (Spanish) blood, the Creole military man soon joined forces with Father Hidalgo, leading the group of armed rebels into several ill-fated battles in the first few months of what was to become a protracted, eleven year struggle.

This is not meant to be an even vaguely comprehensive history of The Mexican War of Independence, so I won’t go into any details of the first few bloody battles.  Early on, however, Allende and Hidalgo had somewhat of a falling out or power struggle.  Much of the discord seemed to be involved around Padre Hidalgo’s “Kill ’em all and let God sort ’em out” attitude toward the Spanish occupiers.  Perhaps Allende had a little more empathy for the Spanish, given that he shared much of their D.N.A.

Some historians believe that the Mexican War of Independence might have ended early on, when the insurgents seemed to have victory in hand at Mexico City.  But the power struggle continued between Allende and Hidalgo, with Allende in favor of pressing on, and Hidalgo urging retreat.  The forces of Allende (mostly professional soldiers) and Hidalgo (his peasant flock) parted ways for a while, then reunited at Guadalajara, where they lost a decisive battle.

Seeking to gain control of the fragmented forces, Allende had Hidalgo arrested.  Then, betrayed by one of his own men, Allende was himself captured.  The two men who sparked the revolt against Spanish rule were then taken to Chihuahua, where they were tried, convicted of treason, and executed.  Allende’s decapitated head, along with those of three other insurgents, was placed in a cage and displayed at Alhondiga de Granaditas in Guanajuato.  A warning for those who would dare to thwart the rule of Spain in the future.

So this little story about the Mexican War of Independence ends abruptly, only a few months into the fight, with the deaths of the two men who instigated it.  Both martyrs are worshiped like saints here in central Mexico.  The war against tyranny and injustice which they instigated was never won.  It goes on today.  The Gachupines may be gone, but they’ve been replaced with equally toxic traitors, who do their dirty work for the American Empire.

As I write this, tens of thousands of protesters are marching in the streets of Mexico City, just a few hours south of here.  An estimated four thousand police have been dispatched to the scene.  President Pena Nieto, a neo-liberal pawn, hand-picked by handlers in Washington, D.C. has set off a firestorm of anger and indignation with an agenda of privatization.  Mexicans stand to lose their federal social security, healthcare, and educational systems to the voracious beast of the Free Market.  Further south in Oaxaca, at least a dozen striking teachers were murdered by Mexican policemen, and the confrontation there shows no signs of diminishing.  A few days ago, 200,000 Mexican doctors went on strike in solidarity with the teachers.  By some estimates, poverty has increased by nearly 65% under Pena Nieto’s watch.

Memory of the 43 exterminated, dismembered, and disappeared teachers from Ayotzinapa in 2014, still burns brightly in the collective psyche of Mexico.  Just as certainly as this country was once part of the Spanish Empire, it has now become subservient to the American Empire.  Pena Nieto presses on with the neoliberal agenda of privatization, so-called Free Trade policies, elimination of social programs, prosperity for the neo-Gachupines, and austerity for an already painfully desperate population.  Here in San Miguel de Allende, the edgy residents are reminded of their place in society by a constant, blatant, and heavily-armed Mexican Military presence, with armored vehicles patrolling the streets like they’re a war zone.

But the presence, courage, and determination of Ignacio Allende and Padre Miguel Hidalgo live on in their countrymen.  I can see it in their eyes when our conversations turn to such matters.  Mexico will not accept another fraudulent election like the 2006 fiasco which robbed them of the leadership of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.  In Mexico’s Corazon and elsewhere in this beautiful country, there are determined young people who will not accept a continuation of foreign occupation.  Not for long.  Do I see a MEXIT on the horizon?

John R. Hall: Meanderer, dreamer, mountaineer, restaurateur, military draft refusing felon, wannabe revolutionary, and citizen of Earth, observes the circus of life, and writes from wherever the north winds blow him. He can most likely be found somewhere in The Hawaiian Island Chain, in Mexico's Corazon, in The Sonoran Desert of Arizona, The Mohave Desert of Nevada, The high deserts of New Mexico, on a Teton glacier in Northwest Wyoming...or at halls245@msn.com. Read other articles by John Rohn.