By Julie R Butler
At about 11 p.m. on the night of Sunday, 15 September, 2019, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador will step onto a balcony of the National Palace to reenact the Grito de Dolores, the call to arms by the priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla in the early hours of 16 September 1810 that marked the beginning of the Mexican War of Independence.
Photo by Flickr user Eric Menjívar, CC BY-SA 2.0
Father Hidalgo’s call for an uprising is the historical event that Mexicans commemorate each year, and the president’s reenactment of the grito serves as the beginning of Mexican Independence Day celebrations, held on 16 September throughout the country.
To get you in the spirit of the upcoming fiestas patrias de México in mid-September, this blog post highlights five interesting facts regarding el Grito de Dolores and el Día de la Independencia.
1. Mexico’s Bell of Independence
The bell that AMLO will be ringing is the very same bell rung by Miguel Hidalgo back in 1810. In 1896, the bell was moved from the church in Dolores (now known as Dolores Hidalgo), Guanajuato to the National Palace in the heart of Mexico City.
Photo by Drkgk, CC0
2. El Grito de Dolores
The exact words of Hidalgo’s original Grito de Dolores were never documented by a first-hand witness, so no one will ever know what, exactly, he said. And it’s not at all certain that Hidalgo rang the bell to gather his parishioners, or that he was even able to gather much of a crowd. However, one account published on 28 September 1810 describes the event like this:
“...E insultando á la religión y á nuestro soberano D. Fernando VII, pintó en su estandarte la imagen de nuestra patrona nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, y le puso la inscripción siguiente: Viva nuestra Madre Santísima de Guadalupe. Viva Fernando VII. Viva la América. Y muera el mal gobierno.”
“...And insulting religion and our sovereign D. Fernando VII, he painted on his banner the image of our patron saint Our Lady of Guadalupe, and included the following inscription: Long live our Blessed Mother of Guadalupe. Long live Ferdinand VII. Long live America. And death to bad government.”
Author of photo unknown, CC BY-SA 3.0
3. Father Hidalgo: Father of the Nation
While Miguel Hidalgo is considered the “Father of the Nation” for being the instigator of Mexican independence from Spain, he never organized a disciplined fighting force or laid out a strategy beyond denouncing “bad government.” But his undisciplined and poorly armed army won early battles against royalist forces because they were caught off guard by the sudden rise of the insurgency.
Painting by Antonio Fabrés, Public Domain
4. Mexico’s Independence from Spain
Mexican independence from Spain was officially declared on 28 September 1821, after Agustín de Iturbide led the Ejército Trigarante (Army of the Three Guarantees) into Mexico City from the east, supposedly stopping along the way to enjoy a patriotic meal of chiles en nogada in the city of Puebla.
It was not until 1836 that Spain, under the rule of Isabella II, finally recognized Mexican independence.
5. El Ángel de la Independencia in Mexico City
The remains of Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla are currently housed in the mausoleum at the base of the Monumento a la Independencia in Mexico City, along with those of other heroes of Mexican independence.
Photo by Thomas Ledl, CC BY-SA 4.0